The Cleveland Cavaliers have an opportunity to capitalize on a schedule of favorable opponents and gain ground in the standings before the All-Star break.
Cleveland has been navigating muddied waters in the Eastern Conference as teams jockey for playoff position. They went over a month without winning back-to-back games and with a 35-22 record, the Cavaliers are two games out of third place — and just four games out of seventh. It is vital the Cavaliers take care of business in this upcoming stretch of games.
The Cavs have already gotten the ball rolling by dealing out impressive victories over the Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and the Detroit Pistons. Each of their last seven wins have come by double-digits, an indicator of how this team packs a hefty punch on any given night.
Cleveland has reclaimed the fourth seed in the East behind these sturdy performances and may not have to worry about the Brooklyn Nets moving forward as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s departure drowns the rest of Brooklyn’s season in uncertainty.
Every member of the Cavaliers’ rotation has been pouring it on with the team dishing 31.5 assists per game across their previous six games. This is the third most in the NBA during this stretch.
Some notable performers include Darius Garland, who is averaging nearly 25 points and 10 assists since mid-January. He was the Cavaliers’ floor general while Donovan Mitchell missed multiple games and has looked even better alongside his All-Star teammate as the duo boasts a Net Rating of 34.3 over their last 10 games.
Garland’s recent hot streak, including 32 points and 11 assists against the Grizzlies, has increased his season averages to a career-best in points (22.0) and three-point percentage (41.5%).
As always, Donovan Mitchell provides the Cavaliers with superstar shot creation. Though he has looked limited since returning from a groin injury, averaging just 14.6 points across his last five games, Mitchell’s looming scoring threat is enough to keep him on the floor. He scored 21 points against the Wizards and dealt a nine-point flurry to the Pacers at the end of the first half to put Cleveland in the driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, Mobley is making a leap offensively, in addition to his already impressive defense. He’s looked more assertive as a scorer, springing into the paint and scoring over elite rim protectors – such as his career-high 38 points against Brook Lopez and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Mobley leads the entire NBA in Defensive Win Shares this season and has continued to expand his game by shooting 81.1% in the paint and 43.3% from mid-range since January. His two-way dominance has been the driving force behind Cleveland’s current three-game win streak.
As for Okoro, the 22-year-old is shooting above 50% from the 3-point line since January, flashing his potential as a 3-and-D forward next to Cleveland’s star core. He’s providing just enough spacing to remain next to the starters, where his phenomenal perimeter defense has played a key role in slowing down opposing guards like Ja Morant and Tyrese Haliburton.
Consistency is the key. Over the last month, this young Cavaliers team has dropped winnable games to the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and New York Knicks. This has been a trend all season and inconsistent execution will make the difference in where Cleveland finishes in the standings.
Ahead of them, the Cavs have the second easiest remaining schedule according to Tankathon. Forthcoming games against middling teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs mark the runway for a potential win-streak entering the All-Star break. A challenge looms against the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers right before the break, but it’s also a chance to push them in the standings.
This is the closest Cleveland has been to full strength all season. Ricky Rubio and Dean Wade have returned, giving them the depth to hopefully survive this grueling crunch before the break.
Cleveland has a chance to take fate into their own hands and push further up the standings. A more-than-manageable stretch like this shouldn’t be squandered.