With only three games left in the regular season the Cavaliers sit at 43-36 in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. The NBA has carried over the "play-in tournament" to the 2021/22 season which means only the top 6 seeds in each conference are guaranteed a playoff berth. The final four seeds (7 thru 10) will play a tournament to determine the 7th and 8th seeds.
So how does the play-in tournament work?
The team in the first play-in spot (7th) will play host to the team in the 2nd spot (8th). The winner of that game gets the 7th seed in the NBA playoffs. The 3rd place (9th) play-in team will play host to the 4th place (10th) team. The winner of that game will then play the loser of the 1st and 2nd place teams for the right to be the 8th seed in the NBA playoffs.
Here are the current NBA standings and playoff bracket as of this writing.
The Cavaliers currently sit in the 1st play-in spot and if things stay as they are would host the Atlanta Hawks with the winner clinching the 7th seed. The Cavaliers are 1-3 vs Atlanta this season, the last loss coming without big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley in the lineup. Atlanta currently sits 1.5 games behind Cleveland and holds the tiebreaker.
Here are their schedules for the rest of the regular season.
Cleveland: at Orlando (4/5), at Brooklyn (4/8), vs Milwaukee (4/10)
Atlanta: at Toronto (4/5), vs Washington (4/6), at Miami (4/8), at Houston (4/10)
The Cavaliers need two wins or two losses by Atlanta to clinch the 1st spot in the play-in. They are expected to receive a big boost this week with the return of Evan Mobley and hopefully Jarrett Allen.
Charlotte and Brooklyn will look to battle it out for the right to play the loser of the predicted Cleveland/Atlanta match-up in hopes of claiming the 8th seed. Brooklyn could turn into the deadliest 8th seed in NBA playoff history.
While injuries have hurt the Cavaliers chances this season, all is not lost. After a rough patch they seem to be hitting their stride these last two games against the Knicks and 76ers. If they can clinch the 7th seed with a 1st round play-in win perhaps they can make a little noise and gain some valuable playoff experience for what will be a 2022/23 season full of high expectations! A play-in loss would result in the Cavaliers keeping their 2022 lottery pick that was sent to Indiana in the Caris Levert trade.