Now that we’re in the final stretch of the regular season, things are starting to heat up in the Eastern Conference. This week, I’m going to take some inspiration from my dad and analyze some of the possible things taking place behind the scenes as teams position themselves for a serious playoff run. It appears that the Heat have the Cavs in their sight, and before you laugh, let me explain.
The Eastern Conference standings lists the Cleveland Cavaliers at 1st, the Boston Celtics at 2nd, and the Miami Heat at 9th. Boston is only a couple wins away from clenching first place, and the Heat are neck and neck with the Chicago Bulls for the 8th position. Naturally, you’d think the Celtics would be interested in battling with the Cavs for the first seed, and you’d think the Cavs would do everything they could to hold on to their spot. However, these teams have been making some interesting moves in the last couple of weeks and I believe it has everything to do with a strategy surrounding the Miami Heat.
The Cavaliers have played the Heat three times so far this season with the fourth match-up taking place in April. The Heat have beat the Cavs two out of those three times, holding Cleveland to under 100 points. Statistically, the Heat & the Cavs match-up fairly closely in shooting percentage, rebounds, assists & turnovers but the Cavs offense is on average about 8 points better than the Heat’s. Sometimes teams that appear unequal in terms of their win loss record match up very well producing unpredictable outcomes, and a tantalizing match-up for fans. It’s evident as of late that Cleveland doesn’t defend well without Kevin Love and seeing as he’s out for the foreseeable future, the Cavs are down a defensive presence leaving Hassan Whiteside with more freedom to enforce his will.
The Boston Celtics, on the other hand, seem to be able to handle Miami without a problem. The Celtics have played the Heat three times this season winning all three contests. Conversely, the Celtics seem to not fare as well with the Cavaliers as they’ve lost two out of the three matchups so far this season. So now let’s look at how the Cavs and the Celtics have been playing these last few games so we can begin to draw some conclusions.
The Cavs are on a three-game losing streak, with two of those losses coming from the Miami Heat. They also appear to be taking their foot off the gas in terms of securing wins. They’re just .500 in the last 10 games which under paces their season win average of nearly 67%. Oddly enough, the Celtics are also 5-5 in the last 10 games which comes up short compared to their season’s winning percentage of 63%. Is it possible that the top two teams in the East want to slow things down this close to the playoffs?
Well, all signs point to the Miami Heat securing the 8th seed in the East. They’re 7-3 in the last 10 games, and they’re currently on a 3-game winning streak. Could it be that the Cavs don’t want to match-up with the Heat in the first round given their track record against the Heat? It would appear that the Cavs are willing to allow Boston to take the lead in an attempt to let the Celtics do their dirty work against Miami. Does Boston have a clue as to what’s happening? You bet they do. Why else would they also be slowing down in the final stretch?
You see, the Celtics can take the Heat, but they don’t want to. They want Cleveland to have to face them in the first round which could mean elimination for the Cavs early on. What would that mean for Boston? Well sure, you have the Raptors and the Wizards to contend with, but Boston has surprised all of us this season and just may be able to make a run for it with Cleveland out of the picture.
Time will tell how things shake out, but in the meantime things in the Eastern Conference just got interesting for the first time in a long time.