Everyone can see what’s happening here: The Cavaliers own the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat own the seventh seed.
In the NBA playoffs, the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds face off in the first round.
Now, if the Cavs were to open against the Milwaukee Bucks, well, no big deal. If they were to square off with the Boston Celtics — again, it’s just another series.
But Cavs vs. Heat? In the first round of the playoffs? Even LeBron James couldn’t have dreamed it up.
James, of course, played for the Cavs from 2003-10. Then he left for Miami in free agency. Then he returned to Cleveland in free agency.
James led the Heat to four straight Finals — with the assistance of good friend Dwyane Wade, as well as the talented Chris Bosh. Meanwhile, the Cavs missed the playoffs in each of those four seasons, compiling the league’s worst record during that span.
James also led the Cavs to their lone Finals appearance during his first stint with the team (2007). Now, he has the Cavs considered true contenders yet again.
And now, it is Wade and the Heat who are trying to hop along and survive in their first season minus James.
But more has gone wrong for the Heat than just James’ departure. Bosh was lost for the season to a scary blood-clot condition (he is expected to be fine and ready for next year). Veteran shooting guard Ray Allen took the year off (and appears likely to retire). Valuable reserve point guard Norris Cole was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans on trade-deadline day.
And Wade turned 33 years old.
So no one fears the Heat anymore. Opponents just sort of recognize them as a veteran team that plays hard and will fight you from start to finish — but a team that loses more often than it wins.
Still, a first-round series between the Cavs and the Heat? A series that features James and Wade? And a series that would result in James playing no less than two postseason games in Miami?
That would be a series the world might like to see.
"Just to go up against a champion, a competitor like (Wade) and that franchise…" James said when asked about the possibility Wednesday. "You look at the standings, you see who’s two-seven. If we continue to do well, we’ll probably face the seventh seed and we’ll see what happens. But it would be good for the fans, for sure. And it would be good for me and D-Wade just being two guys who love to compete.
Of course, the Big Three of James, Wade and Bosh in Miami has been replaced by the Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.
Basically, James went younger with his top two partners.
Irving is a decade younger than Wade, and Love is five years younger than the 31-year old Bosh. Irving’s numbers are similar to those put up by Wade while playing next to LeBron — and while Love takes a lot of grief, the same can be said about his numbers and those of Bosh.
In Bosh’s final two seasons next to James, he averaged 16.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. Love is at 16.5 and 10.0, respectively.
More important than any of that, of course, is the fact the Cavs (48-27) have put together the league’s best record since mid-January, winning 29 of 36 games. That includes a 16-game winning streak at home.
The Heat (34-40), on the other hand, have lost five of 10 heading into Thursday’s game in Cleveland. They actually own the same record as the Brooklyn Nets, and possess the seventh seed solely by virtue of conference wins (22 to the Nets’ 21).
The Heat are also just a half-game ahead of the ninth-place Celtics. So a lot can still happen. The Cavs could face any number of teams in the first round.