5 Cleveland Cavaliers Rivalries That Will Heat Up in 2013-14
The 2013-14 NBA season marks the first time the Cleveland Cavaliers look to be a competitive squad since the departure of LeBron James in 2010. The team is looking to make a playoff push after three straight trips to the lottery.
And when the stakes get higher, resentment grows.
These Cavaliers haven't had the chance to face a single team four or more times in a row yet, but when you're aiming for something that isn't the No. 1 pick in the draft, your desire to beat your opponent burns a lot stronger.
These rivalries haven't produced a lot of action lately, but with all of the teams vying for something against the Cavs, some of that bad blood could resurface this season.
Here are five rivalries that will heat up for the Cavs this season.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
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Key Matchup: April 11 in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Bucks made some interesting moves in the offseason. Those roster changes may not put them in contention with the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference title, but they will challenge the Cavs for one of the final playoff spots.
In fact, depending on how health and other factors work out for each team, we could see their April 11 meeting decide which team goes to the postseason and which team goes home.
Cleveland and Milwaukee have never faced each other in the playoffs, and they probably won't anytime soon. Still, their late-season matchup this year has the potential to be just as gritty as a Game 7.
4. Boston Celtics
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Key Matchup: Dec. 28 in Boston
After a regular-season matchup in April of 2010, LeBron James summed up the Cavs-Celtics rivalry by simply saying, "We don't like them, and they don't like us." (h/t WEEI.com)
While the fierce focal point of that rivalry took his talents down to South Beach, for the most part, tension between Cleveland and Boston never really settled. The Celtics have been 4-3 against the Cavs in the Kyrie Irving era.
Between Boston's presumed fall from grace and Irving's leapfrogging of Rajon Rondo in the best-PG conversation, the Celtics will look to tell the rising Cavs that passing them on the way up won't be as easy as some suggest.
The two teams will face off against each other three times in the regular season, but the December 28 matchup in Boston is probably the best bet for the first duel between Irving and Rondo following the latter's ACL tear.
3. Chicago Bulls
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Key Matchup: Nov. 11 in Chicago
Defined by "The Shot" in 1989, the Cavaliers-Bulls rivalry was mostly filled with futile defeats for Cleveland. The 2010 playoffs marked the first time the Cavs faced the Bulls outside of the Michael Jordan era, and it also marked the first time the Cavs pulled out a series win against them.
It's safe to say that as long as the fiery center remains on the roster, there is always going to be beef between Cleveland and the Bulls. But that isn't what makes this rivalry.
It might come as a surprise, given that Kyrie Irving is now in his third year in the league, but November 11 will be the first time the All-Star point guard gets a crack at the former MVP, Derrick Rose.
These two teams may be in very different places coming into the season, but when two of the best guards in the game face off, you know it's not just a regular game.
2. Washington Wizards
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Key Matchup: Feb. 7 in Washington
The story of this rivalry practically writes itself.
Here we have two teams both trying to work their way back into the playoff picture with a young core of top draft picks. Each team is led by a point guard selected first overall in back-to-back drafts who dons the No. 2 jersey, and each has a strong shooting guard from the 2012 NBA draft.
And that doesn't even take into account the history between the two teams, who faced off in the playoffs for three consecutive years from 2006-2008. The Cavs-Wizards rivalry is back.
Kyrie Irving's star has risen incredibly high and incredibly fast, but John Wall is no slouch. He may not have the All-Star berth Irving secured last season, but he does have a perfect 2-0 against him in games in which they both logged minutes.
In their last meeting, Wall dazzled with 21 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and seven steals, while Irving was limited to less than 10 minutes due to the flu. Their only other matchup saw the two guards both go off for 20-plus points, as Washington won by three.
It's highly unlikely that these two teams will see each other in the playoffs this year, but on February 7 they will square off on national television to show the world who the team (and point guard) of the future really is.
1. Detroit Pistons
Key Matchup: April 9 in Cleveland
Now this is a familiar foe.
Like the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons have toiled at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for a few years. Also like the Cavs and Wizards, the Pistons looked poised to end their postseason drought and make a push for the playoffs.
Unlike the other two teams, however, the Pistons injected some major star power into their roster through free agency.
Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings may not be the definition of team success, but they combine with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe to make a pretty formidable core. ESPN Forecast has them missing the playoffs, but don't be so quick to write this squad off; there is a lot of toughness in this group of players.
In the past, the Cavs and Pistons had some epic battles. It'll take a long time for a fan of either team to forget Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, and we can only hope to see a game that even comes close to the intensity of that matchup.
For now, however, it comes down to April 9. With both teams projected to be in the playoff hunt for the last few spots in the East, this game could be the decider. With its potential to be the last relevant game of the season, expect some of that bad blood to resurface.
Just remember: As exciting as the rivalry potential is for this season, someone always has to be sent home. Regardless of which team that may be, the loss will be yet another log in the fire of what looks to be exciting basketball in Cleveland.