Thursday's 94-90 overtime loss to the Heat was bad in multiple ways for the Cavaliers. Not only did they lose yet another winnable late-season game, they had to go to overtime to do it, on the first night of back-to-backs.
Worst of all, the Cavs are now officially out of the second seed by virtue of a lost tiebreak with the Bulls.
There are still six games left in the regular season, and plenty of time for the Cavs to undo all the damage they have been doing to themselves over the past two weeks. But I think if I had to place my money on playoff seeding, I'd assume the Cavs are not going to recover enough to retain the second seed after the season's final game. Thursday's loss, combined with Chicago's dismantling of the Pistons on Wednesday night, scrawled the handwriting on the wall for me.
The Bulls are simply playing too well, and there is no reason to believe the Cavs are going to get off this win-one, lose-one treadmill anytime soon. Unfortunately, the season is going to end up being about two weeks too long for the stagnating Cavs to hold off the surging Bulls.
If I were the Cavs, now that they've lost to Miami, I'd become the world's biggest Heat fans until the end of the regular season. Now that you've surrendered a game to them in the standings, you want the Heat to play well, pass Toronto and clinch the third seed, allowing the Raptors to fall to the Cavs in the 4-5 matchup.
Unless the Cavs totally tank these last two weeks (I probably should bite my tongue), it seems pretty safe to assume they will end the season with a better record than Toronto or Miami, and consequently secure homecourt advantage over either team in the first round.
But that's a small consolation for a team that was on the fast track to their highest playoff seeding ever, even dreaming of catching the Pistons for the East's best record, and now appear to be backsliding into the playoffs in a miniature version of the collapse that cost them a playoff berth two years ago.
The sluggishness that has marked this team at the offensive end all year now appears to be creeping into their defensive game, which is the pride and joy of coach Mike Brown, but has yet to become so popular with LeBron James and Larry Hughes.
Here's hoping the mess of the past two weeks doesn't carry over into the playoffs. Here's hoping it doesn't lead to an early exit and a long, hot summer to think about how it all went wrong.