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Cleveland Cavaliers Need Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles Back for Chance at Playoffs
It’s hard to believe that sitting at 24-37 at the beginning of March, the Cleveland Cavaliers are just four games out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, thanks to the sad state of affairs in the East (the same record in the West would put them roughly 12 games out), the playoffs are still a reality.
Unfortunately for Mike Brown and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the month of March faces them with the toughest schedule in the NBA—as the 15 teams on their schedule had a combined winning percentage of .579 heading into action on Saturday. After blowing a big lead against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road Saturday night, the shorthanded Cavaliers are staring at 14 games without a “sure” victory in sight.
While the Cavaliers have been much better of late—winners of eight of their last 12 games—the Memphis game really put their current state of affairs in perspective. The Cleveland Cavaliers have literally nobody on the wing who can create their own shot outside of Kyrie Irving with Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles out due to injury.
Outside of Irving’s 11-of-19 performance for 28 points, the next closest “wing” player was Luol Deng with 11 points on 5-of-14 from the field. Jarrett Jack logged 35 minutes, but scored just six points on 3-of-6 shooting. Neither play seemed particularly interested in creating their own shot and opening up the offense—something both Waiters and Miles do on a nightly basis.
Off the bench, Alonzo Gee scored two points in 13 minutes, Anthony Bennett scored four points in nine minutes (really a matter of 30 seconds) and Matthew Dellavedova chipped in five points in 20 minutes on 2-of-7 shooting. Without Waiters and Miles in there, the Cavaliers bench has zero chance of providing scoring against the more defensive teams in the league.
The key phrase there is “defensive teams in the league”, as the Cavaliers have some pretty good ones in terms of points given up per game coming up on their schedule. First up is San Antonio (No. 6 in the league), then Charlotte (No. 4 in the league) and the New York Knicks (No. 13). Their schedule the rest of the month includes Miami (No. 7), Oklahoma City (No. 8), Golden State (No. 9), Brooklyn (No. 11) and they close out the month against the best team in the NBA and No. 1 defense, Indiana.
As you can see, the task to winning games in March was already difficult enough but if Waiters and Miles do not return soon, it is going to be nearly impossible for Irving to will the Cavaliers to victory throughout the entire month. Waiters is averaging 14.3 points and Miles is averaging 10.1 points per night, which means the two account for a very important 24-plus points per night.
While Dellavedova and Gee provide plenty of defense off the bench, they just cannot open up the floor for their teammates and force a defense to focus on them the way Miles and Waiters do.
Winning eight of 12 games was great for the Cavaliers—especially an upset win on the road over Oklahoma City—but the fact of the matter is things like this catch up to teams in the NBA. Without true offensive threats outside of Irving, you cannot expect this team to navigate a gauntlet of a schedule in March and enter the home stretch in April with a realistic shot at the playoffs.
Maybe things will change and Waiters and Miles will return this week, but it might be time for Cavaliers fans to accept that the last 12 games were a preview of a dreaded phrase in the city of Cleveland—next year.
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