The Cleveland Cavaliers finished the week 3-1 for the second week in a row. The lone loss coming to the Milwaukee Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back.
Here’s what we learned from another good week.
The Cavs have the fourth best net rating and are getting better.
The Cavs have been good all season but have taken their play to another level since Evan Mobley returned from an elbow sprain on November 27. The Cavs are 7-2 since then and are outscoring opponents by 12.8 points per 100 possessions which is good for third in the league during that span.
That run of good play has given the Cavs the fourth best net rating in the league and the best in the Eastern Conference. They are outscoring opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions on the season. Their defense has led the way all year as they now have the third best defensive rating in the league and are allowing just 104.1 points per 100 possessions. The offense is lagging behind (18th best with a 108.2 rating) but they’ve been the eighth best offense since November 27 with a 113.8 offensive rating.
We are now over a third of the way through the season. This is not a small sample size. The Cavs have been a top team in the league this season despite having the toughest schedule to date. This team is continuing to get better and are in a position to go on an extended run as the schedule lightens up considerably.
The starting lineup is working.
The starting lineup’s success is one of the reasons the Cavs have been so good recently. The lineup of Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have played together in 11 games. The Cavs are 8-3 in those games.
That starting unit is outscoring opponents by 19.3 points per 100 possessions in the 123 minutes they’ve shared the court. That lineup has an offensive rating of 116.2 and a defensive rating of 96.9. The sample size for this lineup is somewhat small considering how far into the season we are. This is mostly due to Markkanen and Mobley missing extended periods of time and Collin Sexton being the opening day starter before his injury.
The lineup doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper. There are more seven0footers in the lineup (three) than there are true ball handlers (one) yet it works even in this modern three-point era. Garland’s improvement as a lead guard allows them to get away with just one ball handler. His playmaking and handles have taken a dramatic leap from where they were last season. Mobley and Allen have fit together seamlessly on both ends of the floor. Both have proven to be plus passers at their position which provides the secondary playmaking a unit with one ball handler needs.
This unit continues to find ways to be productive on offense while using their exceptional length to be disruptive on the defensive end. We’ve seen teams have varying levels of success defensively by hiding a big on Okoro and by pressuring Garland as soon as he crosses half court. We’ll see what further adjustments opponents make to stop this unit and whether the Cavs have a counter for them.
The team is split as to whether water is wet.
Looking for answers to the age old question ... is water wet?!?— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) December 10, 2021
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I’m not a scientist, but I think the answer is pretty clear. Objects are either wet or dry and I’d never say that water is dry. So, I’m going to disagree with you here Jarrett.
The Cavs continue to dominate teams under .500.
The Cavs dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings this week which is becoming a trend. Cleveland is now 9-1 against teams that currently have losing records with their one loss coming against the Boston Celtics with Allen out of the lineup.
The Cavs have been beating lesser opponents soundly this season as the average margin of victory in these wins is 11.7 points.
Young teams are often inconsistent even if they are good. They often will show that they can compete with or beat any team in the league, but will occasionally lose to teams well below their skill level. On the other hand, good teams consistently beat up on lesser opponents and hold their own against more similarly skilled teams. The Cavs have looked more like a good team this year than a young one despite their age.