It has been a rollercoaster of a season, to say the least, for the Cleveland Cavaliers. For a team that has occupied the top spot in the Eastern Conference for almost the entire year, it has endured a number of problems both on and off the court that has undermined their quest for a first NBA championship.
From the firing of David Blatt to the cryptic tweets of LeBron James, the team has made headlines for all the wrong reasons throughout the campaign.
After finally clinching the number one seed in the east on Monday night with an impressive 109-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks, that can all be put to bed and the real work can now start.
Article continues below
Despite the numerous bumps in the road along the way, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat and the favourites to come out of the east for a second consecutive NBA finals appearance.
Over the last 10 games, the Cavs have been playing a level of basketball that shows they have what it takes to bring that elusive trophy to 'The Land'. The ball has been moving, multiple players have been getting involved on offence and most importantly, James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love look like they have figured out how to effectively co-exist on the same floor.
LeBron's production over those 10 games has been off the charts. The King publically declared he was in “playoff mode” and it has shown. Over that span, he's averaged 28.4 points per game on 63 percent shooting (51.8 percent from 3), along with 8.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists as the Cavs went 8-2.
If this is a preview of what's to come in the postseason, the Cavs fans should be in for a treat. So what does James put this great form down to?
“It's a mind switch, a mind switch,” James said. “I've been going to the gym even more, dialled in more on what needs to be done and what needs to be better. I've been in this league a long time and I know what I need to do for my game to be even more sharp, so I'm glad I was able to deliver and not just talk about it, be able to deliver for my teammates because that's what means more to me than anything."
Cleveland is 4-14 in the last two campaigns without James on the court, so it is clear this team will only go as far as LeBron takes them. Despite having the highest payroll in the league at approximately $155 million, the team is massively over-reliant on the Akron-born superstar.
The two-time champion is the team's leading scorer and creator and much of the Cavs offence runs through him, so a LeBron James playing like this will give the franchise every chance of success.
''I hope he can keep it up,'' Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. ''If he plays like this, man, we're going to be tough to beat. He's just taken it to a whole other level the last three or four weeks, playing at a very high level, shooting the ball very well, shooting it with confidence and also getting it to the basket. I like the LeBron I see right now.''
The Wine and Gold's playoff campaign will begin this weekend against either the Detroit Pistons or Indiana Pacers and after an inconsistent campaign, the belief in Ohio is starting to build again.