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In The Land: Cavs Facing Gauntlet of a Schedule Come January

Photo: David Butler II / USA Today Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up their final homestand of 2022 with a six-game slate where they went 4-2. They defeated the Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks while falling to the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. Cleveland will close out 2022 in the “Windy City” against Zach Levine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević, and the Chicago Bulls on New Year’s Eve.

Once the calendar turns to January 2023, the Cavaliers will face a gauntlet filled with opponents from both conferences who have playoff and championship aspirations, including 12 of their 16 games in the first month of the calendar year coming against the Western Conference. The Cavs have to be ready for the challenges because games are going to start coming at them fast and furious.

After a home game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (RMFH) against the Bulls on January 2nd, the Cavaliers will play nine straight games against Western Conference foes, who are all currently in the postseason picture. Four of their opponents (the Phoenix Suns (twice), Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies) are Top 5 teams in the Western Conference standings. The others (the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors) are all currently in the Play-In Tournament (I will be in attendance in Utah for Donovan Mitchell's return to Utah), so the Cavs will quickly have the opportunity to turn around their road woes. Cleveland is 6-10 on the road after losing to the Pacers on Thursday night in Indianapolis 135-126. The loss in Indiana was the Cavs third consecutive loss, putting the team fourth in the Eastern Conference with a mark of 22-14.

Once the Cavs get back from their five-game west coast trip, they endure a four-game gauntlet beginning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 16) against the Pelicans at RMFH. They will then go on the road to take on the Grizzlies on January 18th before coming home to take on the last two NBA Champions in the Warriors and Bucks on a back-to-back on January 20th and 21st, meaning the Cavs will have to deal with two of the Top 5 players in the league and two former MVP’s and Finals MVP's in Steph Curry (if he’s back from the left shoulder injury he suffered on December 14th against the Pacers) and Giannis Antetokounmpo in a 24-hour period.

Coming off their four-game gauntlet in the middle of the month, the Cavs finish January with three road games and two home games. Following their back-to-back with the 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the 2021 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks, the league gifted the Cavaliers a few days off before they head out onto the road for three straight games against the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Wine and Golders were defeated by Julies Randle, Jalen Brunson and the Knicks 92-81 during their first go-around in Madison Square Garden. They defeated Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddy and the Thunder 110-102 in their first battle this season inside RMFH on December 10th. The matchup with Jalen Green, Jabari Smith and the Rockets will be their first during the 2022-2023 season.

They'll close out the month by looking to hold home court against the Clippers, who they narrowly lost to 119-117 in Hollywood on November 7th, and the Heat, who they defeated inside of RMFH 113-87 on November 20th. The Cavs' record at the FieldHouse stands at 16-4 as of this writing.

After acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Jazz this past offseason, the Cavs sent a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference and the rest of the league they’re contenders and a team to be reckoned with. In these first few months, they’ve picked up some key wins, including the 114-113 overtime victory over the Boston Celtics on November 2nd, but they also suffered some key losses, including the 113-98 loss to the Bucks on November 16th.

January will be the first true gauntlet the Cavaliers have to go through this season. It is vital the Cavs win a majority of their games in the next month to stay in contention for a top seed in one of the most competitive conferences in recent NBA history.


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