The No. 23 is a number that will forever give Cleveland fans pain. And come Wednesday night, that number will be displayed in more ways than one.
The Cavs look to snap the Miami’s 23-game winning streak – We all know about their winning streak. Last night they snuck by the Boston Celtics after some late-game heroics from LeBron. The streak started on 2-3-13 against the Toronto Raptors. Since then, the Heat have gone on to beat teams like the Clippers, Lakers, Thunder, Knicks, Pacers, Grizzlies and Celtics. The Heat have 16 games remaining on their schedule, and only six of those games are against teams that are slated to make the playoffs this year.
The player formerly known as 23 will make his first appearance in Cleveland this season Wednesday night – His departure from Cleveland was well documented, and about 99 percent of Cleveland fans hated him after his Decision. Since then, he was won a gold medal, was named SI’s Sportsman of the Year, earned 2011-12 NBA MVP honors and won an NBA Championship. It is safe to say he has won. The boos are expected to be reduced from the two previous years he had visited Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat.
Nos. 2 and 3 are OUT for this game – If the two rosters weren’t uneven enough, it looks like the Cavs will be without their two leading scorers, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Monday night’s game was a little preview of what could happen if Waiters and Irving are not in the lineup. Livingston has done well the past five games, averaging over 10 points and nearly five assists. But if Monday’s game is any indication of how the Cavs will play without Nos. 2 and 3, the Miami Heat could steamroll the Cavs just like the Pacers did.
The Cavs will be missing Irving’s 23 points per game – Irving has missed 18 games this season, so the Cavs have gotten used to playing without their leading scorer. In the last two meetings against the Heat, the Cavs have held fourth quarter leads, only to give it up in the final seconds. Irving is much more than a 23 PPG scorer, but he is a fourth-quarter scorer. He ranks as one of the league’s top fourth quarter scorers, among players like Carmelo Anthony, Jamal Crawford, James Harden and LeBron.
The Cavs will be looking for their 23rd win of the year – The Cavs and Heat obviously have had different intentions for this season. The Heat are looking for back-to-back NBA championships. The Cavs, on the other hand, are looking to close out this season on a positive note, playing playoff teams in eight of their next 10 games. This stretch will tell a lot about what kind of team the Cavs are. They have already won more games than last year’s shortened season, but injuries to key players have prevented the Cavs from playing at full strength.
I’m not a firm believer in conspiracies, but the No. 23 appears a little more than I would like. Whether this plays to an advantage for the Cavs or not can be up to you decide. But growing up, I lived by the motto that coach Danny O’Shea said at halftime in the Little Giants Movie: “Even if they beat you 99 times out of 100, that still leaves that one time.”
Just like when O’Shea would always race his big brother, Kevin, down Cherry Hill, and he would never beat him – but that one time, he did. The Miami Heat are like the older brother; they are a better team and should beat the Cavs every time they play, but there’s always that one time.