The Cleveland Cavaliers are flying under the radar despite the fact they're starting to heat up at the right time. The Cavs have won three games in a row, with two strong wins over the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, and have gone 10-5 in their last 15 games. While there have been struggles to find consistency on the court, Cleveland is still digging deep and managing ways to win.
The next three games on their 10-day road trip have the Cavs stopping in for a battle with the Orlando Magic before heading up the east coast for two games against the Boston Celtics. Cleveland could do something incredible as a result before returning to Northeast Ohio to face the Atlanta Hawks on December 16th, potentially going from near the bottom of the Eastern Conference all the way to the top.
Tough road trip is Cavs' Eastern Conference measuring stick
You're probably wondering how the Cavs can pull off such a dramatic climb, right? The simple answer is for Cleveland to go undefeated on this road trip. But considering that the Celtics are undefeated at home and the Magic are 10-2 at Amway Center, it might not be as simple as some might think.
A lot of it depends on who is or isn't available for Cleveland or their opponents. The Cavs were without Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert in their win over the Heat, with both dealing with a sore left knee. Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the hope is for LeVert, the Cavs' sixth man averaging 14.9 points per game, to play while the team is on the road. Mobley, meanwhile, received treatment on Friday and was later spotted wearing a sleeve on the knee. Sources say there is a real fear that Mobley could be looking at a multiple-game absence, hurting the Cavs' chances against their upcoming opponent and creating quiet concern about Mobley going forward.
For Orlando, Cleveland's upcoming opponent, Jalen Suggs is day-to-day after suffering an ankle injury against the Cavs a few days ago. Wendell Carter Jr. (finger) and Markelle Fultz (knee) are also considered day-to-day for the Magic. There is serious doubt about either playing against Cleveland, though, since Carter has missed Orlando's last 17 games while Fultz has missed the last 14. Finally, Jonathan Isaac, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, has missed two games in a row for the Magic and could play when the Cavs are in town. If all four players are available, it changes the game's trajectory considerably for Cleveland and could decide whether or not the Cavs beat the Magic twice in less than a week.
But against Boston, Cleveland needs both Mobley and LeVert to be on the floor since the Celtics will likely have everyone available other than their NBA G League assignments. Joe Mazzulla's team is the best in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the league at large, In-Season Tournament results be damned.
While the Cavs went 3-1 against the Celtics last season, the spacing on offense that newly-acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis provides is an edge that could be hard for Jarrett Allen to defend. There's also the tandem of Jrue Holiday and Jaylen Brown, which has the potential to give Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell fits whenever Cleveland is on offense.
While the Cavs are quietly one of the NBA's hotter teams, the two-game tilt in Boston could be a gut check of whether or not Cleveland belongs in the Eastern Conference's elite. If the Cavs win either or both games against the Celtics, it will show they belong both on the court and at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.