The Cavaliers are in playoff mode with 20 games to play in the regular season.


With 20 games left to play in the regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves 3.5 games in back of the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot. And with their first postseason berth since 2010 on the line, the Cavaliers know every game down the stretch will have a playoff-like atmosphere.

Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown views that as a good thing, especially because he has nine players with three or less years of NBA experience, and none of those have made it to the postseason.

"If you think about the nucleus of our group, take Jarrett Jack out, take Luol Deng out, for us, you've got guys, (Matthew) Dellavedova, Kyrie (Irving), Dion (Waiters), Tyler (Zeller), Tristan (Thompson), I've got six guys in my top eight, nine guys that don't have any playoff experience and are first, second, and at worst, third-year guys," Brown said.

"For us to have some pressure going down the stretch with each one of these games is a thing they haven't experienced before. I think it's a good thing. I wish we were the first seed or the second seed, but they have to play some meaningful games to get that type of experience."

The Cavaliers play a back-to-back series on Friday and Saturday, when they travel to Charlotte to play the Bobcats before returning home to face off against the New York Knicks on the night they retire the No. 11 jersey once worn by Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Over the next two weeks, the Cavaliers will play three West Coast games at Phoenix, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers, before hosting the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

Of their next eight opponents, seven would qualify for the playoffs if the regular season ended today.

"I think every game impacts our season," Brown said. "We've got maybe 20 left, or so, and I told the guys after practice, 'For us, every game is a playoff game. We've got to go out and we've got to fight from the beginning to the end. We've got try to be as consistent as we can with our approach, offensively and defensively.'

"The reality is, over the last 20 games, we've played some decent basketball on both ends of the floor, and we might have slipped up here, slipped up there, been a little inconsistent here or there and that's cost us games, but our guys are getting better."

Center Tyler Zeller added, "I don't know exact numbers, but we're about four games out right now, four games with 20 games left and it's tough. You've got to win a lot of those. Really, every game is a must win. You can't really look at just one game as a must-win at this point. You've got to get ready for every night, and hopefully, play well every night."

As the Cavaliers head down the stretch, they have won eight of their last 13 games, something Brown sees as a sign of growth from his young team.

"I can see progress from the team and from individuals, and I'm excited about that," Brown said. "I'm not happy with where we're sitting, but I do think we're better today than where we were sitting on Dec. 1.

"I do feel our group's getting better. I do feel each guy's getting better and has a better understanding of what we're trying to do. That's what's exciting for me, because I see the potential of this team."

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