The Cleveland Cavaliers are way down in their playoff series with the New York Knicks now, but that’s a familiar place for fans of the franchise. After seeing LeBron James lead the Cavs back from a 3-1 series deficit in 2016 to claim their first championship in franchise history, it’s hard not to feel a glimmer of hope (however slight) in seeing the team face that deficit again. Of course, the Cavs don’t have LeBron this year, which puts a sizable damper on their expectations. What they do have, though, is a shockingly young team that could flip the switch at any time. The Cavs are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, with their starting five possessing an average age of 23.2 years, and no matter what happens in this playoff series, they’re getting valuable experience in a year where they weren’t expected to do much of anything.

For as dead in the water they’ve looked in their three losses this series, things could suddenly click for the Cavs’ youth movement: and they could defy all expectations in doing so.

As one might expect, the Knicks are heavy favorites to advance past the Cavs: they only have to win one of their next three games to clinch the series. That doesn’t mean Cleveland can’t extend the series, though, and the Cavaliers are the favorite for Bet365 Ohio in Game 5 on Wednesday, listed at -230.  The Cavaliers have a lot going on for this upcoming match, taking into consideration the fact that a loss means their season is over. 

Here’s a look at what’s happened so far in the series, and what will need to happen for the Cavs to force a Game 7.

First of all, it helps that the Cavaliers are the higher seeded team: they get to host Game 5 tonight, and they’ll go on to host the decisive Game 7 on April 30 should they stave off elimination. 

This series is a fascinating matchup because of the way the two teams’ strengths clash against one another. The Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the league at scoring (and defending) in the paint thanks to big men Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. The Knicks, on the other hand, perform much better in the paint than they do at the boundary. With New York wing Julius Randle limited and nursing an ankle injury throughout the series, the Cavaliers looked like a shoe-in to advance to the second round.

Guard Jalen Brunson has more than picked up the slack. At a diminutive 6-foot-2, it defies all belief that he’s as good as driving into the paint as he is, but he’s put the team on his back in the series, averaging more than 25 points per game. 

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have struggled to play complementary basketball. With their big men struggling, players like Donovan Mitchell haven’t been able to provide a spark from midrange.

Indeed, Mitchell had one of the worst games of his playoff career on Sunday, managing just 11 points in 42 minutes on 5-of-18 shooting. The onus isn’t on one player to improve, but in a sport like basketball, just one player having a big night could help the team figure out their woes.

Should this young Cavaliers team manage to gel at the right time and win back to back games (including one in a hostile road environment at Madison Square Garden), I can’t help but pick them to go the distance and win the series. I’m not predicting that they can come back in the series, but I like them in a decisive Game 7 at home should the chips fall their way.