The Cleveland Cavaliers, with their best player on the bench, are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. On March 16, point guard Kyrie Irving went down with a left bicep injury resulting in many believing the Cavs playoff chances were out the door.
Irving’s teammates clearly did not listen to outsiders doubting their goal of making the playoffs. Five days ago, the Cavs were six and a half games out of the eighth spot in the East. After winning three games in a row, they have moved themselves to within three games of the Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta, who currently holds the final playoff spot, has been playing poorly as of late and looks easy to catch. The Hawks have lost five games in a row and do not have an easy schedule remaining.
The team sitting in the ninth spot in between the Hawks and Cavs is the New York Knicks. The Knicks are exactly in the middle with one and a half games separating them from both teams. Leaping over the Knicks looks like the Cavs biggest challenge.
Cleveland has been able to propel back into the playoff race through stellar individual performances. Over the past week multiple Cavaliers have stepped up their game. The week featured Jarrett Jack scoring a season-high, Matthew Dellavedova coming off the bench to score a career-high, and Dion Waiters drilling a buzzer beater.
The Cavaliers started their winning streak by beating the Knicks 106 to 100. This performance ended the Knicks eight game win streak. The Cavs fueled by Jack’s 23 points in the second half were able to come back from a 15-point halftime deficit. Jack finished with 31 points for a season-high. Waiters helped the scoring effort with 22 points. The team shot 60.9 percent from the field.
For their second win of the week, the Cavs were able to hold onto a 102 to 100 win against the three seed in the East, the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland beat the Raptors with a well-rounded scoring attack. Six players scored in the double digits for the Cavs, including all the starters. Waiters led the way 24 points and Luol Deng added 19 points.
On Wednesday, the Cavs earned their third straight win with a last second shot by Waiters. Waiters’ buzzer beater gave the Cavs a 97 to 96 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The player who finished with the most points for Cleveland was a surprising face. Guard Dellavedova was able to come off the bench and score 21 points for a career-high. Dellavedova hit an impressive five three pointers.
All three of these wins proved to be huge for Cleveland’s playoff chances. They were able to gain ground on the Knicks, strengthen their lead over the Pistons, and beat a playoff team. The Cavs will head into a tough pair of games over the weekend against the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers with much needed momentum.
Irving is expected to be revaluated early next week and could return to help the playoff push. Even if Irving does not come back, it is way too early to rule this young Cavs team out of the playoff race.