Cavs fighting for — not over — No. 2 playoff seed
How important is it to land the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference?
Cavaliers coach David Blatt says it matters a lot, thank you very much.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James says it matters little, and you’re welcome.
OK, Blatt and James didn’t really offer the pleasantries when the media begged and salivated for an answer on where the Cavs must finish in the race for the playoffs.
Blatt actually answered this way: "We got to finish in second place."
James actually answered this way: "I never play for seeding. I just play. And wherever at the end of the season we land, I’m ready. Just get me in the playoffs."
Now, this being the age of Twitter feeds craving attention and websites longing for clicks, these comments were posted in a manner that pitted Blatt against his star player. Strong words such as "feud" and "grudge" and "hostility" have been used to describe the difference of opinion.
And when it comes to the playoffs, and where the Cavs must finish, that’s all it is between Blatt and James — a difference of opinion.
It’s not even an intense difference. Frankly, Blatt partially agrees with James. Both want the Cavs in the playoffs, period. And frankly, James partially agrees with Blatt. Both want the Cavs to finish as high, seeding-wise, as possible.
With the Atlanta Hawks about a week away from securing the East’s top spot, No. 2 is likely as high as the Cavs can go. There’s no drama there. Nor is there drama with the Cavs. But by golly, the world around them sure will try to manufacture some.
Truth is, James is correct. It doesn’t really matter where the Cavs finish. As he said, what’s most important is for the Cavs to just make the playoffs.
James has played in five Finals, including four straight with the Miami Heat, and won two championships. He understands that if you want to win a title, you’ll probably have to win at least one (and likely multiple) road games.
Blatt is correct, too. As anyone who follows the NBA knows, the higher the seed, the less road games you need to win. And winning at home is always easier. But home-court advantage guarantees nothing.
Just last season, the top-seeded Indiana Pacers were forced to win on the road TWICE to escape the eighth-seeded Hawks. And that was just in the first round. That supports James’ point.
Of course, once the Pacers picked up those two road wins, they had the luxury of hosting the seventh and deciding game — as the Pacers were the higher seed. That supports Blatt’s point.
Entering Friday, the Cavs (44-26) were 10 games behind the Hawks, with just 12 to play. They led the third-seeded Toronto Raptors by two games, and the Chicago Bulls by 2.5. The No. 5 Washington Wizards trailed the Cavs by three games.
If the playoffs had started Thursday, the Cavs would’ve opened against LeBron’s old team, with the Heat owning the seventh seed. But the Heat led the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers by just a game apiece. Also, the Charlotte Hornets trailed the Heat by 1.5 games.
So as you can see, the Cavs could still finish anywhere from Nos. 2-5. Finishing fourth or fifth, of course, would take some lousy play down the stretch. And avoiding that, more than the actual No. 2 seed, is likely what’s most important to Blatt. He is like any coach anywhere, and would prefer to have some momentum going into the postseason.
That is mostly what he seems to mean when he talks about the second seed. The Cavs have it, and Blatt doesn’t want them to lose it.
As for James, it appears he is merely trying to take some pressure off of younger teammates such as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. James also is thinking like a champion. "Just get me in the playoffs," and I’ll make everything OK, seems to be his rally cry.
It’s really hard to envision the Cavs missing the playoffs entirely. It’s even hard to envision them finishing any lower than third.
And it’s hard to envision Blatt and James being all up in arms over the second seed, as some media outlets are trying to portray. The Cavs have been really good and sport the best record in the NBA (15-6) since Jan. 15. That’s all anyone really cares about.
So how important is the No. 2 seed?
Very important, and not important at all.