Into the final two weeks of the NBA regular season we go and there appear only a mere handful of issues left to resolve.
Top seeding in the East is still on the table with the Boston Celtics in pole position but with sinking Cleveland giving chase – and Washington and Toronto within reach.
It is still any four from seven to fill out the playoff spots beneath them while out West, it really looks to be two out of three between Memphis, Portland and Denver. While Golden State’s win over San Antonio earlier this week has surely granted them the number one overall seeding and likely ensured James Harden will be MVP (still backable at 1.40).
But what of the bigger picture? And the elephant in the room: the question of whether the Cavaliers are going to be laughing in June or crying in May.
Their 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday was a fifth reverse for the defending champions in seven games, and a tenth in 16, dropping them 0.5 games behind the Celtics in what seemed an improbable duel just a month ago.
Respite will surely come when they host the already-eliminated Philadelphia 76ers on Friday but anything more than a punt on Cleveland at a handicap of -5.5 is currently a leap of faith.
Utah and Atlanta are the lone .500 or above victims the Cavaliers have claimed during March, leaving LeBron James to declare: “We've got some work to do. We don't have a lot of time.”
Vulnerability which could make the East a point of intrigue when the post-season begins. Boston at 7.00 has momentum on its side while Washington at 11.00 offers perhaps the toughest match-up. Toronto at 13.00 is arguably the most tempting alternative – but only if Kyle Lowry regains the fullest of fitness.
If the playoffs started today, there would be few throwing every dime on a Cleveland repeat although with Indiana to come on Sunday and Orlando on Tuesday, the Cavs have a chance to rebound before a critical trip to Boston next Wednesday.
But their defence is a disaster zone with voids all over the court. Come next month, that invites trouble. And the clock is loudly ticking down.
Best bet: Go over 120.5 total points in Cleveland-Philadelphia
Utah’s trip to San Antonio on Sunday comes amid one of the hardest finishes to the campaign with the Jazz slated to meet playoff-chasing Portland twice, plus Golden State before a final night rematch with the Spurs.
That will present a tough road to retaining homecourt in the first round but they should beware Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division race.
The Thunder are 2.5 games back but, after Friday’s meeting with San Antonio, every remaining opponent bar Memphis is sub-.500. Food for thought when they are 5.50 to make a late spurt to snatch the divisional title away from Utah.