For the past two seasons, it was the Cavaliers who were playing in early April with the intent of locking up the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. And for two years running, they achieved their goal.
The Chicago Bulls may not achieve all that Cleveland did and end up with the NBA’s best record for 2010-11 — San Antonio in the West is a game-and-a-half up on the Bulls for that prize — but if Chicago wins tonight, or if Boston loses at home to Washington, the Bulls will clinch the Eastern Conference regular season title.
At present Chicago’s record is 58-20, while the Celtics and the Miami Heat are 54-24. But Miami has already been eliminated for any chance at the top seed due to tiebreakers, so the whole ball of wax — or rather, ball of basket — is right there for the Bulls to grab if they can in Cleveland.
Ironic, isn’t it? The team that the Cavaliers knocked out of the playoffs last year might well be celebrating at the Q less than a year later.
The stakes for the Cavs are not high, as any hopes for the postseason were left behind weeks ago, but there is the matter of pride, of not letting an opponent achieve something on your home court…and there is momentum, making something positive of the end of a losing season.
With victories in their last two games, against Charlotte (a crushing blow to the Bobcats, who have now been eliminated) and against Toronto, the goal for Cleveland is three wins in a row — an achievement that has happened only once this season, and that way back in November.
The Bulls are led in scoring by Derrick Rose, who is lighting it up for 25.1 PPG, and in rebounding by Joakim Noah, with 10.8 per contest. Rose also leads in assists with 7.9 per game, making him a solid MVP candidate in 2011.
Cleveland is led in scoring by Antawn Jamison, at 18 a game, although Jamison is long since done for the year with a broken finger. J.J. Hickson leads in boards with 8.5, and Ramon Sessions in assists with 5.2 per tilt.
Tonight’s game is the second-last at the Q this season. The Cavaliers’ next two contests are on the road, at Milwaukee and Detroit, before the home schedule — and the season, for Cleveland — ends next Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.