The Cavs have won 10 straight games dating back to January 15th. That game, a win over the hapless Los Angeles Lakers, sure didn't feel like a turning point. The next night, still in LA, the Cavs pulled out a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are very good. Since January 15th, the Clips are 4th in net efficiency. Only the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, and Cavs have been better in that time, outscoring teams by 10.9 points over 100 possessions in their last nine games. It was a huge win.
The Cavs haven't looked back. They are outscoring opponents by 13.5 points/100 possessions during their win streak, which is best in the NBA. They rank 1st in offensive efficiency and 15th in defensive efficiency over the stretch. It's been really fun. Kyrie Irving has been fantastic and may win Eastern Conference Player of the Week. LeBron James won last week. The Cavs frontcourt has been up and down this year, but Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov, and Tristan Thompson have held things down pretty well. J.R. Smith is taking a lot of threes, making some, but is at least usually taking the right kind of shots.
In the big picture, the Cavs have gone from 19-20 and 6th in the Eastern Conference to 29-20 and ... 5th in the Eastern Conference. They are inching closer to that third seed which would likely earn the team a much easier 1st round opponent, but we aren't even to the All-Star break yet. The team is trending in the right direction. The schedule gets tougher in the second part of February and into early March, but the last month should give the team an opportunity to enter the playoffs on a bit of a roll.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers (10-38) at Cleveland Cavaliers (29-20)
When: 7:00 ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, League Pass
Everyone knows that the Philadelphia 76ers are not good. It's by design! And that's okay. Brett Brown appears to be doing a pretty good job with not much at all. The 76ers are an abomination when it comes to offense, but they are actually 12th in the league in defensive efficiency! Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Luc Mbah a Moute and K.J. McDaniels are athletic and have pretty good length. They can disrupt offenses. They just can't score themselves.
MCW has been pretty disappointing. He's got a usage rate north of 27% and a true shooting rate of 44.8. That's ... not ideal. He's got an insane assist rate, particularly given the dearth of talent around him, but he also turns the ball over too often. Part of his turnover rate can be attributed to the pace the 76ers play at. They play at the 6th fastest pace in the league. Still, it's going to be really hard for him to be a good point guard in the league if he can't shoot.
Nerlens Noel is incredibly raw but appears to be learning. His rebounding rate and offensive game in general leave a lot to be desired, but we've seen that with 20 year old bigs. Remember, he's essentially a rookie. Despite that, he's a huge part of the fact that the 76ers play competent defense.
The Cavs are almost certainly going to win this game. Where the 76ers are going, I don't know. But they won't be disappointed by any outcome to this game barring an injury. The Cavs will be trying to win their 11th straight and their fifth game in seven days. The teams on the schedule haven't been consistently scary, but all they can do is win the games that are scheduled. The team gets two days off following this one before another matchup with the Clippers. That game provides another measuring stick.
Cavs win this one 104-84.
Stats courtesy of nba.com/stats
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