Bill Simmons on 18-2 run Cavs had earlier this season: ‘Whatever that was, that wasn’t real’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are staggering toward the playoffs, so much so that NBA observer Bill Simmons said they are the Eastern Conference team he would want to play in the first round.

“I’m trying to look for either teams that have won me over where I’m like, ‘Okay, I actually believe in you for a couple series now,'” Simmons said. “Or teams that I’m just completely out on. And I think Cleveland’s in the latter camp.”

The Cavs have lost three in a row, five of their past seven and eight of their past 11. That includes a 120-118 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday in a game they led by 26 points in the third quarter.

It’s a bad state of affairs for the Cavs, who also flamed out in the first round of last year’s playoffs and have been trying to make moves and set standards so that won’t happen again.

Everything was going according to plan earlier in the season, when despite injuries to some key players, the Cavs put together two long winning streaks and won 18 of 20 games at one point. However, Simmons said he is skeptical of that streak and that the Cavs of today will be an attractive playoff opponent for someone.

“Whatever that was, that wasn’t real,” Simmons said of the extended run during January and February. “… Something’s off. It feels like [Donovan] Mitchell’s gonna leave this summer — and that’s the team I would want to play in round one in the East.”

Last season, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018, the Cavs were quickly eliminated by the New York Knicks in a five-game first-round series. Afterward, Mitchell praised the environment at Madison Square Garden, adding to the constant speculation that he did not want a long-term future in Cleveland.

Another disheartening playoff exit would significantly add to that idea, which would be devastating after momentum seemed to be growing that he would choose to stay in Cleveland.

Time is running short for the Cavs to right the ship, but it remains possible. They have three games to play in the final week of the regular season – all at home – and can still finish with a high seed in the Eastern Conference. But they also could fall into the play-in round.

The Cavs are entering league play Monday in fifth place in the East, 1.5 games out of second place but also just 2.5 games ahead of eighth place. Some wins to close the regular season – which would improve positioning and restore some confidence – would be a good way to enter the next stage of the 2023-24 NBA campaign.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.