If you’re 17-33 and on a one-game winning streak and people are writing about your potential to make the playoffs, you just might be in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up a solid win on the road against the Washington Wizards on Friday night, making me wonder — is it time for the Cavs to make their move?
Despite the fact that they’re 16 games under .500, they are only five games back of the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 8 seed in the East. Granted, they’d get a golden ticket to have a can of whoopass opened on them by the Indiana Pacers, but hey, the playoffs are a big deal regardless of where you get in.
The 115-113 win by itself isn’t something to go crazy about. Yes, the Wizards are a much improved team that has talent and have been beating some impressive teams at home. What has me more optimistic is the play of Kyrie Irving last night. Irving scored 23 points on 11 field goal attempts, making all 13 of his free-throws. He also racked up 12 assists, for a ridiculous 53.9 assist percentage.
Also of note was the play of Dion Waiters. It’s felt like either Irving or Waiters have had good games, but rarely have we seen them do it together. Last night, Waiters scored 24 points off the bench on 11-for-18 from the field. If the Cavaliers can continue to get production from both of them during the same game, they’ll be well on their way.
Perhaps even more important is the play of the bigs. Anderson Varejao is a gritty player that finds his way to the ball when he’s healthy, but if not, the team is relying on Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson and ::gasp:: Anthony Bennett to help on the glass. Speaking of Bennett, he actually played well against the Wizards, with eight points and six rebounds in 21:06. He did rack up five fouls, but there’s no need to nitpick at this point.
Looking up at the conference, the Cavs are going to be fighting with the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons to sneak into that No. 8 spot. There’s no question that the Cavs are less talented as individuals than the Pistons and the Knicks have the best individual player, but is it that crazy to believe Irving could take the embarrassing Los Angeles Lakers loss personally and carry this team to the playoffs?
It’s happened before. It’s time for the Cavaliers star to start acting like it and playing like it. Friday night was an excellent start, so keep an eye on them, as they have a short two-game homestand coming up against the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Sports Illustrated/Fansided NBA site HoopsHabit.com and the Arizona Sports site HeatWaved.com. He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic. Follow me on Twitter @DunlapNBA.