There is no question that the Western Conference of the NBA is much stronger than the East.
Currently, the Brooklyn Nets are the 8th seed in the East with a 17-24 record, a mark that would rank them 12th in the West. The Cavs, who sit in the fifth spot in on the right half of the NBA grid at 22-20, would be on the outside looking in if they played out west.
And there is no question the wine and gold have struggled this season, especially in the first couple of weeks in January, when they lost six in a row before winning the last three.
However, right now the Cavs have played the most games against the tougher conference in the NBA, and they are 6-11 in those games.
The team with the best record in the East, Atlanta, has played 30 of their 42 games in their own conference, a difference of five contests. They are 10-2 in those dozen games, but they will no doubt have a tougher slate in front of them.
Washington has the conference’s second best record and they’ve played 28 games in the East, going 9-5 vs. the West.
Toronto, the third seed, is the only team ahead of the Cavs in the standings that have played a similar amount of games as the wine and gold, having played 26 inter-conference games. The Raptors are 9-6 against the west.
Now, it is most definitely true that a 6-11 mark against the Western Conference is nothing to be proud of, especially compared to the top three teams, but the point is, the Cavaliers have fewer games against the tougher teams, and they don’t have to make any more west coast trips.
Which brings us back to the Wizards and Raptors, who have played four and five more home games than road games so far this season. Of course, this means they will play more on the road in the second half of the season, another advantage for the Cavaliers, who have split their 42 games right down the middle.
The Hawks, currently in another stratosphere, have actually played more on the road through 42 contests.
Milwaukee, immediately behind Cleveland in the standings, will get to play more at home than on the road for the balance of the season, having played just 18 of their 41 games in Beer Town.
On the other hand, they’ve only played 14 games out of conference, meaning they will see a steady diet of western squads for the balance of the campaign.
All this means that the Cavs have a solid chance to improve their lot in the standings if they stay healthy going forward and continue to play together. And obviously, if they can make up the ground between themselves and the Bulls (currently Cleveland is 4-1/2 games behind), they would get home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
With two more games vs. Philadelphia (yes, we know they lost the first game between the two teams), three more games against the Celtics, and two more with the depleted Pacers, they are opportunities for the Cavaliers to make up some ground.
And it is a big advantage not having to travel further than the central time zone again.
It’s no excuse, but David Blatt’s team hasn’t had the easiest schedule thus far, there has been a lot of travelling. Now comes the payoff for that slate, the wine and gold won’t go far from home the rest of the year.