Tied with the defiant Atlanta Hawks for third-longest win streak in the league, the Cavs are looking like their projected counterparts. What’s truly promising is that their eight-game road to perdition might stand the test of time (or, at least the season).
First, in the past seven games, Cleveland has patched up some holes on defense. In return, they’ve allowed opponents to score just 96.6 points per 100 possessions. If a season-long mark, they’d be ranked at No. 3 in this category. Ranked 20th in rebounds snagged as a team, Cleveland has looked better there too.
The success shouldn’t be slighted either as they’ve had to bear the league’s sixth-hardest schedule over the course of their last ten games. Wins have come rather easily against lackluster opponents like Orlando, Indiana, Brooklyn, and New York but include some revenge wins against able competitors like Washington and Toronto. Of course, within that 10-game spurt, three straight losses to San Antonio, Washington, and Toronto aren’t comforting either.
At a much improved 13-7, Cleveland stands just two games behind the top of the East, or Toronto country. This, after a sluggish, drama-filled start. What’s more, outside of Miami, Indiana, and a crumbling Charlotte, no other team out East has had a harder schedule through the season than, you guessed it, this on-the-rise bunch.
The Cavs might never be as good as marketed but they might be onto something, as their recent play indicates. Their midsection defense, ranked at 14th, isn’t going to get them four rounds deep into the playoffs but it hasn’t been atrocious enough to hurt their 5.3 Plus-Minus rating, that puts them just a tad behind Memphis and above the Rockets.
LeBron might still be a ways away from bringing a chip to Cleveland but this trend might be indicative of what remains. It’s not worth throwing a parade over but it deserves some recognition.