September 17, 2014

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Rick Noland: Cavs’ hopes of making playoffs fading fast

Cleveland Cavaliers' Spencer Hawes looks to pass against Washington Wizards' Marcin Gortat Sunday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Spencer Hawes looks to pass against Washington Wizards’ Marcin Gortat Sunday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

It’s looking more and more like Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and son Nick could be back in Secaucus, N.J., in May.

After winning the NBA Draft Lottery for the second time in three years last spring, Dan Gilbert vowed his moribund franchise would not return in 2014.

But with 25 games left in their disappointing season, it appears that is exactly where the 22-35 Cavs are headed.

Cleveland sits five games back of Charlotte (27-30) and Atlanta (26-29), which are tied for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In the pathetic East, the Cavs are also 5½ games back of current No. 6 seed Brooklyn (26-28) and entered the week 1½ games back of No. 9 Detroit (23-33), which hosted Golden State on Monday.

That means if the Cavs go 13-12 the rest of the season, they will finish with 35 victories. Atlanta needs to go just 10-17 to win 36 games and Charlotte needs to go 9-16.

If Cleveland gets hot and goes, say, 15-10 the rest of the way, it will finish with 37 wins. Not even taking into account the fact the Cavs could lose tiebreakers, the Hawks would need to go 12-15 and the Bobcats would need to go 11-14 to finish with 38.

In other words, the odds of Cleveland reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010 are slim to none, and slim is already making plane reservations for that May trip to beautiful New Jersey.

“I’m not trying to be funny, but every game we lose, (the postseason) is slipping (away) a little more,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said Monday following a light workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Do I think we still have a chance? Yeah, but every time we lose, it’s slipping a little more.

“It speaks for itself. Hopefully, we can string some games together to keep fighting for that spot and keep trying to gain ground, as opposed to going the other way.”

For the season, the Cavs are playing .386 basketball — that’s also been their shooting percentage on some nights — which equates to a shade over 31½ wins.

Now, given the fact Brown’s club recently won six in a row before its current two-game losing streak, there’s reason to believe Kyrie Irving and Co. will up their winning percentage the rest of the season, maybe even to .500 or slightly better.

Thinking the Cavs will play .600 ball and finish 37-45 is stretching credibility a bit and, as we just pointed out a few paragraphs earlier, that might not be good enough, anyway.

To begin with, Cleveland has played without Anderson Varejao (back) the last six games, Dion Waiters (knee) the last three and C.J. Miles (ankle) the last two.

They’ll be back sometime — and maybe even sometime soon — but right now a steady dose of Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller isn’t going to get the job done.

“It’s tough to continue to lose guys, but that’s part of it,” Brown said. “We’ve got to find a way to play the game and be consistent on both ends of the floor, no matter who’s in uniform.”

Compounding matters, the schedule, which has been pretty soft for most of February, is about to get much tougher.

The Cavs host Atlantic Division-leading Toronto tonight — the fact the Raptors are in first place with a 31-25 record tells you all you need to know about the current state of the East — and play at Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City (43-14) on Wednesday.

A very winnable home game against Utah (19-36 prior to Monday) on Friday concludes February, but March is not going to be a picnic.

Eight of Cleveland’s 15 games will be on the road, including meetings with Memphis (31-24), Phoenix (33-22), Golden State (34-22 prior to Monday) and the Los Angeles Clippers (38-20 prior to Monday).

Given that the Cavs are just 8-21 on the road this season, even games against the likes of Charlotte, New York (21-35), Detroit and Brooklyn will be stern tests.

Want more bad news, Cavs fans?

March also brings home games against top-flight teams Miami (40-14), Oklahoma City, Houston (38-18) and Indiana (42-13), but Brown remains optimistic.

“They’re all winnable games,” he said. “If we can string consistent minutes together a little longer, we’ll give ourselves a better chance of winning them.”

That is definitely looking at the glass as half full — or maybe even overflowing — but there is one positive: All seven games in April are winnable.

Of course, by then, Dan Gilbert & Son may have already made plane reservations for their fourth straight trip to Secaucus.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

TONIGHT

WHO: Cleveland vs. Toronto
TIME: 7 o’clock
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM, WEOL 930-AM (joined in progress)