82 games have caused a lot of consternation among fans and players alike as many meaningless games sap excitement from the regular season.
There have been calls for games to be shortened to 66 regular season games in the near future. On the part of the playing body, playing so many games breaks them down before the more important part of the season comes around.
The pressure of playing back to back games can be argued to have cost Chris Paul a trip to a Western Conference Finals since his running mates tend to get hurt at the most critical points in the season. Paul has suffered varied injuries of his own that have forced him to miss a host of games in the postseason.
However, the length of the season provides a big chance for teams to turn around their fortunes once injuries and coaching issues are sorted out. The situation is particularly accurate when describing Cleveland Cavaliers season so far; losing seven games in 13 games to begin the season was far from the kind of start the team envisaged.
Through it all, veterans LeBron James and JR Smith consistently stated the season is long to afford the chance to turn around the team’s flagging fortunes.
Ten games later, this prediction has come to pass as Cleveland has registered ten straight wins to move up to third in the Eastern Conference behind Boston Celtics and the surprisingly good Detroit Pistons.
After beating the Hawks 121-114 in its last matchup, the Cavaliers face Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum on Sunday with a big chance to extend the winning run to 11 games. As things stand, the teams hold the longest active winning streak in the league but trail Boston’s 16 game mark for the season. Playing Memphis a few seasons ago and as a matter of fact a few games back this season would have been a tough call to make.
However, the Grizzlies are in turmoil after sacking David Fizdale, losing eight games on the bounce and are still without Point Guard Mike Conley for the next three weeks. The team’s top scorer Marc Gasol has been in a slump recently as the team’s performance looks to have coincided with his poor showing in recent games. All these factors make Memphis an easy target for the confident Cavaliers with LeBron James playing elite basketball despite his heavy workload. Beat Memphis and get 11 wins, beat Chicago Bulls in the next game at home and Cleveland could be on the cusp of equaling Boston’s winning streak mark.
The possibility is extremely high looking at the subpar teams Cleveland face before taking on Washington Wizards on December 17. Chicago is one of the worst sides this season after a delayed rebuilding process took off at the start of the season. It got further weakened following the loss of Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis through a physical altercation even before it tipped off its season. Portis got suspended eight games while Mirotic spent two months out with facial fractures and only returned to action this week. Sacramento Kings are next and aside threatening with its speedy athletic players, Sacramento lacks established talent to score a win over Cleveland.
Tricky but winnable ties follow since the Cavs take on one of this season’s better performing sides Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia Sixers and Utah Jazz. The team plays Atlanta again and Los Angeles Lakers before taking on Washington. While ties against Sixers, Jazz and Pacers are no sure bet wins, each opponent has a glaring weakness. Indiana is wildly inconsistent against elite teams, Philadelphia is still young and got a beat down from the Cavs recently.
Utah has been weakened by the departure of Gordon Hayward and the addition of non three point shooting players like Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Winning these games add eight more to the team’s win column for the season and good enough to easily smash Celtics record. The anticipated returns of Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas in particular, should ease the playmaking and scoring burden on James while improving form of Dwyane Wade and Jae Crowder helps a lot.
From the brink of an epic collapse to potentially clinching a record setting mark, the Cleveland Cavaliers rise in form highlights the effectiveness of a long NBA season.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter