Photo: Ron Schwane / AP
Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were overachievers as they finished the 2021-2022 season with a record of 44-38, good enough for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, which was good enough to qualify for the NBA Play-In Tournament. Unfortunately, the Cavs lost both of their Play-In Tournament games to the Nets and Hawks, eliminating them from the postseason before it began. More than likely, the Cavs would have been a higher seed last year if the team wasn’t decimated by injury. They know there’s more meat on the bone, and they want to send a message in the first 12 games of the 2022-23 season.
The Cavaliers begin their season with a two-game road trip against the two teams who sent them to the Play-In Tournament, the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 19 and the Chicago Bulls on the 22nd. Toronto finished as the No. 6 seed in the East a season ago and put a scare in the Philadelphia 76ers by nearly coming back from a 3-0 series deficit, forcing the series to six games. This will be the second time in four years the Cavs opened their season north of the border at Scotiabank Arena, as they also opened the 2018-2019 season in Toronto when Kawhi Leonard made his Raptors debut.
Though the Raptors don’t have their full complement of players from the 2019 championship team, they do have some of the key contributors from that team, including forward Pascal Siakam, who wants to continue his ascension toward becoming a star player, guard Fred VanVleet, who aims to continue being a strong three-point shooter and forward OG Anunoby, who wants to prove himself as a bonafide player in the league. Toronto also has the reigning rookie of the year in forward Scottie Barnes.
The Bulls came in just behind Toronto last season. Like the Raptors, the Bulls avoided the Play-In Tournament and captured a playoff spot, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round in five games. Chicago was able to re-sign All-Star guard Zach Lavine in the offseason. They also brought back All-Star forward Demar Derozen and stretch center Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls took three out of the four regular season games against the Cavaliers last season, including a key 98-94 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in late March.
The Cavs home opener will be the next night against the Washington Wizards. Bradley Beal and co. are in rebuilding mode, so if the Cavs do struggle out of the gate and start out the season 0-2, the Wizards should provide the Cavs with a “get right” game.
After their “get right” game against the Wizards, the Cavs have another winnable game at home against the Orlando Magic. The Magic finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 22-60 and the second-worst record in all of the NBA a season ago. This enabled them to select forward Paolo Banchero out of Duke with the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft. The main objective for the Magic this season is to continue developing their young core of guards Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz,, center Mo Bamba, and Banchero. The Magic will play the Cavs tough, but Cleveland should win by a fairly comfortable margin.
After the two-game homestand, the Wine and Golders travel to the TD Garden to face the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. Although Boston won’t have head coach Ime Udokah due to a season-long suspension, they still have their dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Marcus Smart is the reigning defensive player of the year, so he’s sure to give Darius Garland a few headaches. In the offseason, the Celtics brought in guard Malcolm Brogdon to strengthen their point guard position, as that appeared to be their biggest weakness in the NBA Finals.
To close out the month of October, the Cavs will return home to face the team many fans and media members thought would land Donovan Mitchell, the New York Knicks. Though the Knicks didn’t get Mitchell, they were able to sign former Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson. New York is banking on guard RJ Barrett and forward Julies Randle to take the next steps forward Though the Knicks have some young pieces who could develop with time, the Cavs should be able to win this game and close out October no worse at 3-3.
Round 2 with the Celtics comes on November 2nd at the FieldHouse. It was recently announced that this game against the Celtics would be broadcast on ESPN. This should be a tight game that comes down the wire.
Cleveland will then embark on a road trip, starting in the Motor City against the Detroit Pistons. Detroit feels they have their backcourt of the future by drafting guard Cade Cunningham No.1 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft and guard Jaden Ivey No. 5 overall this past summer. The Pistons should be an improved team, and they may be a thorn in the Cavs side this season.
After the game in Detroit, they will head out to Hollywood for two tough tilts against the Lakers and Clippers. LeBron and the Lakers won both games against his hometown Cavaliers last season while the Cavs took both matchups from the Clippers. The Lakers are bringing back their “Big 3”in LeBron, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook and are looking to get back to the top of the mountain where they sat in the 2020 season. They also brought in guard Patrick Beverly in hopes of improving their defense. While the Lakers might not fully be gelled since this game will still be relatively early in the season, it’s hard to imagine the Cavs beating LeBron in LA.
The next night, the Cavs will be back at Crypto.com Arena to take on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers. Leonard and George will have chips on their shoulders, especially Leonard after he missed the whole 2021-2022 season with a torn ACL. The Clippers may be a little too much for the Cavs to overcome.
The California road trip will conclude in Sacramento on November 9th and in Golden State on November 11th.
After the first 12 games of the season, the Cavs at worse should be sitting at .500 with a 6-6 record. With how strong the East is projected to be this season, a 6-6 record could put the Cavs at the top of the conference, or it could put them right in the middle of the standings. The Cavs have the potential to win more games and prove me wrong
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