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And So It Goes

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Cleveland Cavaliers 70-game Recap

Chad W. Lutz
I’ve been listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack a lot lately. The melodies rise and crash in magnificent splendor. The tremors of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ethereal understanding of harmony and emotion blend together seamlessly. With each listen I’m instantly taken back to the Pantages Theatre in Toronto. The year is 1996. The Cleveland Indians are in between World Series appearances. The Browns, however, do not exist. I guess there are some things that never change. But, I’m there, and the chandelier falls, and a mysterious voice coach, “The Angel of the Music”, sweeps Christine Daee away from the sullen Count vi Comte.

The infamous story tells the tale of a disfigured gypsy boy abandoned by his parents who takes refuge in a traveling circus until he gets involved with the government in a bad way and has to flee. He winds up in the cellars of the Paris opera and assumes the identity of the “Opera Ghost”, who possesses incredible talents despite being horribly flawed physically.

In a nutshell, that’s exactly what the Cleveland Cavaliers 2013-2014 season looks like from a distance. On paper, we have a roster able to compete against any team on any given night and a motivated coaching staff with a background in winning. But the one thing the Cavaliers have been unable to do this season is put it all together. The Wine and Gold are the Swiss cheese of the NBA: just as good as cheddar but still full of holes.

The last five months have been pockmarked with wins, at best. The Cavs, who at one point during the month of February won six games in a row, the same team that has multiple win streaks of three games this season, has been as phantom as the Opera Ghost when it appears to matter most. Cleveland has gone an apathetic 4-11 in games played since Feb. 21 in which the Cavs were only three games or less in back of Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot. Instead of capitalizing on a late-season losing streak by the Hawks that ballooned to seven games in a row, the Wine and Gold lost pivotal games against potential playoff match-ups, i.e. Washington, Charlotte, and New York, and their chances slipped away.

The last ten games have been brutal, Youngbloods, absolutely brutal. The schedule alone could have made any half-interested basketball fan cringe, let alone its eventual outcome. After starting out strong, the Cavs have now dropped four straight contests. The Cavaliers were able to win two crucial games on the road in Phoenix and at Golden State before losing to the steamy-hot Clippers last Sunday. Though the victories were huge at the time, they may ultimately prove futile and of little or no avail.

New York has rather thunderously ascended the ranks of the Eastern Conference over the last two or three weeks and now only sits two and a half games in back of Atlanta, who lost earlier today on the road in Toronto. The Cavs tip off against New York this evening, but even with a win it may not be enough to make up the six and a half-game deficit the Cavaliers now face with only twelve more games to go in the regular season. The Wine and Gold will again be without the services of Kyrie Irving, who suffered a strain to his right bicep early in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers last weekend, still without Luol Deng, who is nursing an ankle injury that has left him sidelined for a number of games now, and C.J. Miles, who hasn’t played more than a few minutes since the beginning of February.

Although I really would rather not, I suppose it's time to start looking forward. What positives can we take away from the season? How about the continued development of Dion Waiters as a formidable 6th Man? How about Tyler Zeller showing maturity and improvement on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor? Wild Thing's never-ending tenacity? Jarrett Jack's willingness and poise in being thrown into the starting point guard role? Kyrie Irving solidifying his stardom and continued leadership of the Cavs at such a young age? I'm Ron Burgandy? Yes, all of these things have happened. And the fact that we have two more wins than all of last year probably serves as the clearest sign of improvement in the young squad, if not the direction the organization make go in the coming years. If the Cavs can walk away .500 in the last twelve games, that would put our record at 30-52. Gosh golly, thirty wins would look nice in the W column, wouldn't they?

While I hate to say I hear the “fat lady singing”, the curtains may have already fallen on the 2013-2014 campaign. With many of our starters on the bench, and a lack of overall congealment on court throughout most of the season, let alone with half our first-five missing in action, there’s little left I can honestly say about the chances Cleveland still has for a playoff birth in basketball. There’s still a glimmer of hope, with twelve games left and the Cavs six and a half back. It would take the right set of circumstances, but if the 2013 Cleveland Indians season has taught us anything-and really Cleveland sports in general-anything is possible. We just have to keep the faith. 82-long.