Cleveland in contention

Cleveland in contention

The Cleveland Cavaliers might make the playoffs.

That’s right – the worst team in the National Basketball Association last year is only one-and-a-half games behind a playoff berth. Though they currently have a losing record of 23-34, with 25 games left in their schedule, the Eastern Conference postseason is clearly within reach. It would be their first appearance since the 1997-98 season.

Before the season began, rookie sensation LeBron James said that his goal was to help his teammates play better every day. So far, the Cavs have done a pretty good job, amassing more wins in three-quarters of a season than they did in the full season last year. And James has certainly helped raise the caliber of defensive and offensive play in Cleveland.

Opposing teams are averaging six points less per game against the Cavs than they did last year. Cleveland is averaging nearly one point more. And the fans have taken note: home attendance rounds at over 6,000 more per game than last year.

A perfect example of their growth as a team came this week, when they won three straight games. The first victory was a squeaker over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, 89-87. The next win was at Madison Square Garden over the New York Knicks, 92-86. Finally, the Cavs came back from a 25-point deficit on Feb. 23 to beat the New Orleans Hornets, 104-100 – one of the largest comebacks in team history.

If their season keeps improving, Cleveland’s comeback could be even bigger.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.