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Wild Night Yields Cavs Playoff Picture

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And what a wild night of NBA action it was to clarify the Eastern Conference playoff matchups and who the Cleveland Cavaliers would draw in the first round. On the last night of play when spots are still in question, it is interesting for whom one might find themselves rooting.

Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers had a lot of things in doubt. Were they going to be the number 2 seed? If they were going to be the number 2, then who would they play? All the action started at 7:00 p.m. and there wasn’t a dull moment until the final gun sounded sometime after 10:30 p.m. We now know all the seeds, all the games, and where they will all be played. It was a good night for the Cavs as every scenario worked out the way I am guessing they wanted it to turn out.

First, Cleveland Cavaliers had to take care of their own business at home versus the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks didn’t have anything to play for, but sometimes teams like the Bucks relish the opportunity to at least spoil something for someone on their way to summer tee times. If the Cavs didn’t take this game seriously and beat the Bucks, scoreboard watching later would be pointless. At stake for the Cavaliers was the difference between the number 2 seed and the number 5 seed in the East. It wasn’t a complete blowout by any means, but the Cavaliers had it under control for almost the entire balance of the game, finally winning 109-96. LeBron scored 24 points with 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

The Cavs needed to win this game, but then that wasn’t the total balance of the equation. The Bulls owned the tie-breaker against the Cavs, and their records were identical going into last night’s action. The Cavs also needed New Jersey to beat the Bulls. The Bulls were playing in New Jersey against the Nets starting at 7:30 on ESPN, so I was flipping back and forth.

The Bulls and Nets was a close game until the last three minutes when the Nets went on a mini-run to lock it up. Jason Kidd had a horrible night offensively in which he only made one field goal and two free throws. He made up for that with 11 assists and 11 rebounds. The players of the game for the Nets were Vince Carter, who almost recorded a triple double, Mikki Moore who dropped in 22 points before getting into foul trouble, and Josh Boone, who gave the Nets a giant lift with 15 points off the bench.

The Nets victory pushed the Bulls down to the number 5 seed in the East and lifted the Cavs up to the number 2 seed. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, the action wasn’t over just yet. To determine who the Cavs would play in the number 7 seed, the Washington Wizards had to win in Indianapolis against the Pacers to remain ahead of the Orlando Magic in the 8th spot.

Thankfully ESPN did a “Live Look-In” and flipped on Washington versus Indiana in Indianapolis. I didn’t see much of that game at all, but it was nip and tuck all the way to the end of the fourth quarter. Antonio Daniels made one out of two free throws with 30 seconds left in the game to make it Washington 96, Indiana 95. Magically enough, the Wizards were able to keep Indiana from scoring. Darius Songaila made two free throws and the Wizards won the game 98-95.

And then everyone could finally breathe. The games were done. The matchups cemented.

The final picture looks like this:

• Detroit (1) vs. Orlando (8)
• Cleveland (2) vs. Washington (7)
• Toronto (3) vs. New Jersey (6)
• Miami (4) vs. Chicago (5)

It couldn’t have worked out any better for the Cavaliers. They avoided Miami in the first round and they got a Washington team that is missing Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. The playoffs start on Saturday. The Cavs’ first game is on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against the Wizards at the Q in Cleveland.

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