Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 4/25/12

What a lovely tank you have there

It’s time to say goodbye to the men in Wine and Gold. For this season, anyway.

Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Washington Wizards in the final home of the season. What once was a fierce rivalry of sorts is now renewed as a Premier League-esque relegation battle. Although, instead of relegation, these teams are fighting for lottery position.

For Washington, the hard part is over. With New Orleans’ win last night, moving them alongside Cleveland and Sacramento with 21 wins, the Wizards, at 18 wins with two games to go, have locked up 2nd place in the lottery derby. They can win out and not harm their lottery position.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, that is not the case. With two games remaining, tonight against Washington and tomorrow in Chicago where many starters will likely rest, the Cavaliers’ lottery future is very much in limbo.

Currently, Cleveland is tied with Sacramento and Charlotte for 3rd through 5th with 21 wins. New Jersey and Toronto are one game back at 22 wins, while Golden State is hanging around with 23 wins. Sacramento (vs Lakers) and New Orleans (at Houston) each have just one game remaining.

If the Cavaliers, Kings, and Hornets all finished tied at 21 wins, all 3 would share 12.1% odds of getting the #1 pick. If 1 of the 3 teams wins and the other 2 lose, those 2 that lose will split 13.75% odds of the #1 pick. And if 2 win and 1 loses, the team that loses will have 15.6% chances of winning the lottery all to themselves.

With the way the Cavaliers have been playing lately, there’s a good chance Cleveland wins this game tonight. However, Washington is red hot right now, having won 4 in a row and 6 of their last 8 games. Furthermore, Kyrie Irving is doubtful for the game with some kind of stomach flu.

It’s hard not to be skeptical of what’s going on here. First, Byron Scott leaves Irving on the bench for much of the 4th quarter in a winnable game, and now Irving is expected miss this game with a stomach flu. Conspiracy theorists and tankologists will have a field day with this one. Who knows if the Cavaliers are really trying to tank or not, but either way, as a fan of the game, it’s unfortunate to miss out on a battle between Irving and the Wiz’s John Wall.

Most disappointing of all, though, for Cleveland fans attending the game, is the fact that the fans won’t get to watch Kyrie play his last home game of the season. It’s been so much fun watching this kid grow and develop before our very eyes all season long, and now we have to wait 5+ months before we get to see him in real action again. From that standpoint, it’s unfortunate.

From the “We must get a top 3 pick this year” standpoint, however, it’s much more fortunate. This game could be one of the biggest games of the season. It could define the course of the offseason as well as the very future of this franchise. It could be the difference between picking 3rd and picking 9th or 10th in the upcoming draft.

I’ve loved the way Byron Scott has gotten his team to respond since that fateful loss in Detroit. It’s encouraging that with nothing left to play for, this team is still competing hard again. I love everything about that. But when it comes down to winning and losing the game, Kyrie Irving makes the biggest impact there. It’s hard to say whether it’s coincidence or not, but with no Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers’ chances of beating the Wizards just dropped by a significant margin.

_____

Image source: raptorshq.com

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