Just a few short days ago everything seemed to be going right for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were on the tail end of a six-game winning streak and the trade deadline not only kept the team intact, but added a stretch big man (Spencer Hawes) to help with the playoff push. All things considering, things couldn’t seem much brighter for a team with a losing record. But as sports has taught us regularly, things can change dramatically in an instant.
Since the trade deadline the Cavaliers are winless … which is a dramatic way of saying they are 0-2 during that stretch. Losing two games in a row isn’t the end of the world for most teams but at this point in the season, the Cavaliers simply cannot afford a losing streak of any length.
Time is running out quickly and we won’t be able to continue to use the word “playoffs” if the Cavaliers don’t find ways to continue winning. The winning needs to start Tuesday when Cleveland hosts the Toronto Raptors. In years past, a game against the Raptors would be a welcome experience that teams would count on to reverse their bad fortunes, but since trading Rudy Gay, the Raptors have been anything but a pushover.
As of today, ESPN is only giving Cleveland a 3.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. To put this in perspective, the same ESPN Playoff Predictor is currently giving the Raptors better odds of winning the 2014 NBA championship (4.3 percent). Although playoffs odds are just a little more than mathematical guesswork, the further into the season we get the more dangerous these numbers become. With every loss, the percentages take a severe hit.
The key for Cleveland will need to be found over the next 10 games, as their opponents over that stretch have an average winning percentage of .569. That is including the fact that only three of their next 10 opponents have a current losing record (Utah 19-36, Charlotte 27-30, and NY 21-35). If the Cavaliers fail to win at least seven of their next 10, the word “playoffs” will be replaced with “draft” in NBA conversations.