How the Cleveland Cavaliers compare to conference rivals post All-Star Break

Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Cavaliers Rival No. 1 - Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers handed the Cavaliers their final loss prior to All-Star Weekend behind Tyrese Maxey's 22 points and 9 assists and Buddy Hield's scorching five-of-eight from deep in his franchise debut. Philly faced the Cavs without reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Without Embiid, the Cavaliers entered the night heavily favored to walk away with a win; yet, they fell short after coming out of the gates sluggish.

Embiid's return from injury is still unknown, and the possibility of the 76ers entering the playoffs without him is not out of the question. If the Cavaliers do meet Philly at some point in the postseason, Embiid's health and conditioning will be the largest question mark. Without Embiid in the lineup, the 76ers have a 6-14 record this season. The Cavs will no doubt have a much easier time if the MVP is out of commission; otherwise, the matchup is much more in the air.

If there is any conference rival with more embarrassing playoff losses than Cleveland, it is Philadelphia. In six postseason appearances, Embiid and the Sixers have never overcome the second round. The team's most recent game-seven loss to the Boston Celtics cost then-head coach Doc Rivers his position.

If both teams are healthy, the odds are likely in Philly's favor, though not heavily. Donovan Mitchell has put on historic playoff performances, and Jarrett Allen is displaying new-found confidence everywhere on the floor. If these two Cleveland stars take the wheel and allow Garland and Mobley to do what they do best, the Cavaliers could surprise the NBA world and hand the Sixers another early exit.

Cavaliers Rival No. 2 - New York Knicks

Both the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers have retained their core group from last season while adding complementary high-level role players into the mix, as well. Last year, the Cavs' non-existent bench scoring and lackluster rebounding hand-wrapped an easy win for the Knicks.

While it is easy to suggest the Knicks would come out victorious again, the last series was a wake-up call to the Cavs, and they addressed the problems directly exploited by New York. The Cavaliers' frontcourt has been much more physical on the boards, and the team has a plethora of options to contribute from the perimeter now.

While the Knicks' mid-season acquisitions of OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks are noteworthy and will improve their versatility, the Cavaliers are a higher seed for a reason. The Knicks have had better overall health this season, although they have had their fair share of injuries. Still, Cleveland's best this year has eclipsed the Knicks' best. Both teams left the postseason embarrassed by their rival eventually and had plenty of problems to address. With improved rosters, the Cavs should get their revenge if they find themselves in a rematch.

Beating the Knicks would not only erase many of the Cavs' earned criticisms from last summer, but it would finally break Donovan Mitchell's curse when facing Jalen Brunson in the postseason. Mitchell has lost both series against Brunson, one in the West and now one in the East. Mitchell has grown by leaps and bounds this season and is entering his prime at 27 years old. If anything, Mitchell's determination to break the spell might be what puts the Cavaliers over the top.