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Examining the Cavs’ performance on back-to-backs

Cleveland has struggled on back-to-backs since LeBron James returned. But are they the worst team in the NBA in these games?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs played the Indiana Pacers on Friday on the second game of a back-to-back in Indiana.

It is no secret that Cleveland—the oldest team in the NBA—tends to give lackluster effort in these situations.

I took a look at whether the Cavs are the worst team in the NBA on back-to-back sets based on Net Rating Differential (the difference between their Net Rating with and without rest).

League average Net Rating with rest is +0.7 whereas league average Net Rating on back-to-backs is -3.1.

The Cavs rank above average with rest, posting a +3.6 Net Rating. But in their 7 back-to-backs, Cleveland has played well below-average, finishing with a -5.4 Net Rating.

The largest difference for the Cavs in back-to-back situations has been their offense. With rest, the Cavs 115.3 oRTG would rank 2nd in the NBA. But when Cleveland is on a back-to-back, their 101.9 oRTG drops to 5th worst in the NBA.

The improvement in their defense (4.4 points better per 100 possessions), however, prevents them from being the worst team in the NBA on back-to-backs. Instead, that honor goes to the Houston Rockets, who are 14.2 points per 100 possessions worse on back-to-backs this season.

Overall, the Cavs are the 7th worst team on back-to-backs based on Net Rating Differential. Cleveland is one of 20 NBA teams that has a negative Net Rating in back-to-back games.

The Cavs head into tonight’s contest in Indiana at a rest disadvantage—the Pacers last played Wednesday night (a 114-106 loss to the Miami Heat). This does not bode well for Cleveland as Indiana has the 5th best Net Rating with rest in the NBA (+4.8).

Stats accurate as of Jan. 12, 2018