Conference Call

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Starting with Wednesday night’s battle against the Bucks, the Cavaliers will play four straight Eastern Conference Playoff teams – one or more of which they could face when the postseason tips off in less than a month.

While the Wine and Gold continue to fight for the top spot in the East – (their Magic Number is “3”) – the bottom half of the bracket is beginning to take shape. A lot of things can happen over the next couple weeks, but here’s a look at five teams jockeying for four spots …


Milwaukee Bucks(40-32) – The last Buck to win Rookie of the Year was Lew Alcindor, and Sacramento’s Reggie Evans should take this year’s prize, but it’s fair to say no first-year player has had a bigger impact than Brandon Jennings. And for the second straight year, John Salmons has been one of the biggest post-trade deadline catalysts, with Milwaukee going 16-4 since his arrival.

Scott Skiles' club is the Cinderella team of the East, and would have to suffer a pretty precipitous fall to meet the Cavaliers in the first round. They’ve knocked Cleveland off – (sans LeBron) – this season, but the Cavaliers own the season series thus far.

In early December, Cleveland used a 29-0 run to blow past the Bucks, but they’re a different ballclub these days. A first round matchup between Milwaukee and either Boston or Atlanta could be highly entertaining.

Miami Heat(40-34) – Dwyane Wade and Co. are in the proverbial driver’s seat heading down the stretch. The Heat have won five straight, eight of their last 10 and don’t play a single playoff team in their final eight games.

In what looked impossible two weeks ago, the fast-rising Heat now have their sights set on Milwaukee, trailing the upstart Bucks by just a game heading into the final month of the season.

The Cavaliers have swept Miami in three games this season, beating them by an average of eight points. But the LeBron-Wade factor can always mitigate the records. If the Cavaliers face the Heat in the postseason, it would be their first playoff meeting.

Charlotte Bobcats(38-35) – Even in a 60-win season, there’s one team that’s had the Cavaliers’ number, and that’s the Bobcats. After dropping Charlotte by 11 in the first week of the season, the Wine and Gold have dropped three straight to Larry Brown’s squad. No other Eastern Conference team has beaten Cleveland more than once.

In two of those losses, Charlotte held Cleveland under 88 points. In the third, Antawn Jamison went 0-for-12 from the floor in his Cavaliers debut and the Cavaliers lost by 17 on Tobacco Road.

The Bobcats have one of the best home marks in the East at 27-8, but if Gerald Wallace and Co. want to secure their first franchise playoff berth, they’ll have to get through Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and Houston to start the month of April.

Toronto Raptors(36-37) – The marriage between Hedo Turkoglu and the Raptors hasn’t been everything both sides have hoped for. The relationship has been rocky and so has the Raptors season since the All-Star Break, going just 7-14. Before dropping the Bobcats on Monday night, the slumping Raps had dropped three straight.

Cleveland dropped their first decision to the Raptors in the second game of the season, but has won two straight, including a 126-118 overtime win in late February.

Since 2007, LeBron has averaged 30.7 ppg against the Raptors, one of just five Eastern Conference teams the Cavaliers have never faced in the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls(35-38) – The Bulls are getting healthy and starting to make a late run at the 8th seed – just one game behind the Raptors as of Tuesday morning. For Chicago to make the postseason after losing 10 straight to start the month of March would be quite a feat.

If the Bulls want to get into the Tournament, their fate is in their hands, with a pair of matchups against Charlotte in April – including a road contest on the final night.

The Bulls topped Cleveland by a point at The Q in early November, but the Cavs have taken the last two. But between these two teams there’s a playoff history, some current bad blood and the fact that Chicago is 5-5 against Cleveland over the last 10.