The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business this week as they won all four of their games. They’ve now won six in a row, five of which were by double-digits.
Here’s what we learned from the impressive week.
Evan Mobley is expanding his defensive game.
The Cavs once again had Evan Mobley guard a high-usage wing in Friday night’s win against the New Orleans Pelicans. This is the second time in the last two weeks they’ve done this with the most memorable example being Mobley guarding the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler on January 31.
Cleveland started the game with Mobley as the primary defender on Brandon Ingram which allowed Isaac Okoro to guard the point-of-attack guard in CJ McCollum. The results were impressive. Mobley did a good job of keeping Ingram away from the rim as he attempted only one shot in the restricted area all evening.
Mobley was able to use his length to wall off looks at the rim as was the case in the below example. The second-year big was able help on the McCollum drive, recover to the perimeter and stayed with Ingram on the drive forcing an awkward contested floater.
Ingram did most of his damage in the midrange. While there’s no defense for a good shot, Mobley’s length and ability to hang on the perimeter made those looks very difficult like the clip below.
Ingram still got his points as he finished the evening with 25 on 8-15 shooting with 8 assists. But, it was proof that Mobley can hang with a high usage wing on the perimeter freeing up Okoro to guard down a position which is something he’s much more comfortable doing.
Overall, Mobley had one of his most impressive games of the season. He was able to blow up offensive possessions when Dean Wade took on the Ingram assignment as he finished the night with 3 steals and 2 blocks which including this incredible sequence.
Using Mobley to start out guarding high-usage wings may not be the most optimal way to use him on a nightly basis. But, it’s something the Cavs will likely need him to do in a potential playoff series against teams like Miami, the Boston Celtics or the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cavs are hitting their stride.
The Cavs are once again playing like one of the top teams in the conference after being awoken from their mid-season malaise by Dillon Brooks. The Cavs haven’t lost since that game while looking like a juggernaut. In the last two weeks the Cavs have posted a 21.5 net rating and a 101 defensive rating. Both of which are best in the league.
Cleveland has gotten to the softer part of their schedule. Aside from the Memphis Grizzlies, none of the teams they’ve beaten are currently in the top-six position within their conference. That said, this is exactly what contenders are supposed to do with teams beneath them. It’s encouraging to see the Cavs taking care of business like they are.
Jarrett Allen is the backbone of this team.
Allen has once again put together another impressive under-the-radar seasons. Allen has taken his game to another level during this winning streak which has largely been overshadowed by the incredible play of the other three members of the core four.
The big man has registered 20 or more points in his past four games. During that stretch he’s averaged 21.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. His most impressive outing came against the Detroit Pistons where he grabbed 7 offensive rebounds to keep a short-handed offense without their starting backcourt afloat.
His dominance this week show more clearly in his advanced numbers. He personally grabbed an outrageous 18.9% of the Cavs’ missed shots, finished 22 of his 26 attempts at the rim and registered a 101.9 defensive rating on the week.
It’s easy to overlook Allen’s rock-solid play with the incredible things Donovan Mitchell and Mobley have done of late. However, the Cavs likely don’t find themselves in the position they’re in now without the foundation to the offense and defense Allen provides.
Donovan Mitchell is looking like his old self.
Mitchell has understandably struggled since his initial groin injury on January 16. In the six games Mitchell played from that date through February 5 he averaged just 14.7 points on .352/.320/.900 shooting splits with 4.8 assists per game.
The burst that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing wasn’t there which forced him to settle too often for outside shots. While Mitchell has been a good outside shooter this season, his ability to hit from the outside often works in concert with his ability to attack the basket. When one isn’t there, there’s typically a drop off in the other.
His road performance against the Washington Wizards on Monday night seemed to be a turning point. In 28 minutes, the All-Star starter put up 21 points on 8-16 shooting with 5 assists. Although the stat-line doesn’t jump off the page, the way he was able to use his quick first step to get to the basket and create separation appeared to be somewhat back to normal.
This was backed up by impressive outings on Friday and Saturday. Mitchell was sensational against the Pelicans as he put up his first 30 point outing since January 10. He backed that up with a much needed 29 points against the Chicago Bulls in a game the rest of the starters couldn’t generate anything.
This team is built around their defensive identity. But, in order to compete in a league ruled by offense, they need Mitchell to be performing like he was this week. Hopefully this week is a sign that the lingering groin injury is finally subsiding.