Dribbles: Cavs nine games, or less, from winning Central

LeBron James and the Cavaliers have six regular-season home games remaining.

Cavaliers at Nets

Tipoff: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Cavaliers 47-26; Nets 30-40.

TV: FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame show at 7). Radio: WTAM-AM 1100 flagship; WAKR-AM 1590 Akron.

Projected Starters

Cavaliers: C Timofey Mozgov; PF Kevin Love; SF LeBron James; SG J.R. Smith; PG Kyrie Irving.

Nets: C Brook Lopez; PF Cory Jefferson; SF Joe Johnson; SG Markel Brown; PG Deron Williams

Injury Report

Cavaliers: C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out.

Nets: PF Thaddeus Young (knee) out; PF Mirza Teletovic (blood clots) out; G/F Sergey Karasev (knee) out.


1. With nine games remaining, the Cavaliers hold a three-game lead over the Bulls for first in the Central Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference. This is a game the Cavs should win to solidify that gap. If so, maybe they can rest some guys for Sunday’s home date with the forever-tanking 76ers.

2. Including Friday, the Cavs have three more road games: Nets, Bucks, Celtics. Their six home games: Sixers, Heat, Bulls, Celtics, Pistons, Wizards. The Nets, Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Bucks and Wizards are all positioning themselves for the playoffs. Only the Cavs-Wizards finale may be nothing more than reserves, as both teams will likely have secured their spots by then.

3. The Bulls also have nine games remaining, with four at home: Knicks, Pistons, Sixers and Hawks to end the regular season. Bulls road games: Bucks, Cavs, Magic, Heat, Nets.

4. Basically, nabbing the No. 2 overall seed isn’t really that important to either team. As long as you have home-court advantage in the first round, you’re happy. As LeBron James has said, "Just get me in (the playoffs)."

5. But players from both teams thoroughly value the idea of winning the division. Not surprisingly, what fans and media talk about is very rarely in line with what the players are thinking.

6. But the Cavs also want the No. 2 seed because they currently own it. Losing it would mean entering the postseason with less momentum than they have now. If the Bulls were to overcome a three-game deficit, they’d be feeling darn good about themselves when it matters most.

7. That said, I don’t see the Cavs losing it. But it wouldn’t matter if they were the No. 1 seed or No. 8. If you want to win a title, you have to win some road games, period.

8. As for the Nets, their only available power forwards are Cory Jefferson, who plays 11 minutes a night and averages 3.7 points per game, and Earl Clark, who was signed to a 10-day contract Friday. Clark, a former lottery pick and member of the Cavs, had been playing in China.

9. Jefferson and Clark will fill in for Thaddeus Young, the starter who strained his left knee Wednesday. Young can be a real Cavs killer, so his absence will only help the Cavs’ cause.

10. Believe it or not, the Nets are just a half-game behind the Celtics for the eighth playoff spot. And that’s amazing because this seems like a totally lost season in Brooklyn. But if the Nets can get into the playoffs, they just may be able to give the Hawks a run. Of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Lots can happen between now and the start of the playoffs April 18.