The Cleveland Cavaliers play two of their next three games against playoff teams from the Western Conference.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- With the Mid-American Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments coming to Quicken Loans Arena this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play their next three games on the road, and there is plenty on the line as they head West.
The Cavaliers start the road trip 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The West Coast trip begins against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night and continues in Oakland where the Cavaliers will play the Golden State Warriors Friday. The Cavaliers wrap up the road trip Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Two of the Cavaliers' opponents on this trip, Golden State and Los Angeles, would be in the playoffs if the regular season came to an end today. Phoenix is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final spot, but is on the outside looking in at this point.
"We need to play well with where we're sitting," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Monday. "It'd be good to go out, get on the road and try to get some wins. I know I'm looking forward to it. I think the guys are too, and hopefully, we do what we're capable of and come back feeling better about ourselves."
Although they have not yet qualified for the postseason, the Suns have had a lot of success under first-time head coach Jeff Hornacek.
The former Utah Jazz guard has guided the Suns to 36 wins thus far this season, which is 11 more than they had in 2012-2013. Over the previous two years, the Suns won a combined 58 games.
"Hornacek's done a nice job," Brown said. "Everybody on their roster has stepped up and done a nice job. (Goran) Dragic has been unbelievable for them and the addition of Gerald Green has been really good. P.J. Tucker knows his role and they've done a terrific job this year."
Guard C.J. Miles added, "We've just got to be pushing. We can't let ourselves beat ourselves. That's the biggest thing. I think of the lot of the games have been coming to the point where teams make runs or we make some mistakes and it leads to the next mistake or it leads to three or four mistakes or missing a shot leads to the next three missed shots because guys are beating themselves up a little bit over the pressure of making the playoffs."
The West Coast trip is particularly important to the Cavaliers because they are on a four-game losing streak after winning eight of their previous 10.
"You want to pride yourself on being the best you can possibly be," Brown said. "And you hope people expect you to do well. I know we do. We expect ourselves to do very well. I've never been with a team where I've come into the beginning of the season saying, 'Let's just go play the games and see what happens.'
"We're playing to win, and so, the expectations we placed on ourselves, as individuals and as a team, exceed anything out there. It's something we have to deal with. We have to make sure we're attacking it the right way, and hopefully, when we're going through it, we're getting better."