It was their first three-game losing streak in almost two full years. (Their last back-to-back-to-back losses came in March of 2008.) And it was a real buzzkill after all the exhilarating trade deadline hysteria . . . culminating in the pillaging of the Washington Wizards.
Then the Cavaliers righted the ship. In a big way.
Since those three loses, the Cavs are 11-1.
That's even more impressive considering the fact that the Cavs have been without Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Shaquille O'Neal, who went down just one-and-a-half games into that 11-1 run. Yet, without both of their centers, the Cavs are still 9-1. (Or, technically, 9.5-1)
[And leading into the All-Star Break, the Cavaliers had a franchise record-tying 13-0 streak . . . while being without Mo for 11 of those games, Delonte for nine, and Jamario for four.]
So let's take a step back and appreciate the Cavs' resilience and take a look at some stats to see how they've been getting the job done over the last month.
Suck down these numbers:
#1.) Leading into tonight's game against the Chicago Bulls, the Cavs are 54-15, which is three games off last year's pace. After 69 games last year, the Cavs were 57-12, and nine games into last year's 13-game winning streak.
To match those 66 wins, the Cavs would have to finish the regular season on a 12-1 run, which sounds like a stretch . . . until you consider that they're currently on an 11-1 run. (Not that the 66 wins really matters in the grand scheme of things.)
#2.) As of this (Friday) morning, the Cavaliers (54-15) have a 5.5 game lead on the Orlando Magic (49-21) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The tiebreaker hasn't been determined yet. Cleveland has a 2-1 lead over the Magic in the season series, but there's one game left (in Cleveland on April 11th).
The Cavs have a 3.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers (50-18) for the best record in the NBA . . . which, of course, would net the Cavs home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Since the Cavs own the tiebreaker - they walked over the Lakers in both of their match-ups this season - the lead is technically 4.5 games.
#3.) The Cavaliers are third in the NBA in shooting percentage at 48.7%, behind just Utah (49.1%) and Phoenix (49.0%) . . . and second in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 39.0%, behind just Phoenix (40.6%).
And, as you probably know by now, the Cavs are 29th (second-to-last) in the NBA in free throw percentage at 72%. Only Detroit is worse (71.7%). The interesting thing is that in the last 10 games, all without Shaq, the Cavs have been even worse: 68.6%, which is last in the NBA. They're just not good at free throws.
#4.) Speaking of being without Shaq (and Z), over the past 10 games, the Cavaliers are second in the NBA in rebounding, with 44.5 a game. On the season, they're 11th at 42.44 per game.
#5.) When the Cavs are playing too loosely . . . as they have been at times since the All-Star Break . . . the main culprit isn't poor offense (although the execution can be suspect), it has seemed to be a combination of: Free throws, turnovers, and defense.
On the season, the Cavs are averaging 14.01 turnovers a game, which is 12th in the NBA (middle of the pack) and 9th (sub-par) in the Eastern Conference. Their opponents are averaging 12.82 turnovers.
Here are the Cavs' turnover averages by month: October 13.8, November 13.6, December 13.4, January 14.7, February 11.2, and March 12.1. So apparently, the turnover situation has actually improved. Who knew?
#6.) On the season, the Cavs are allowing opponents just 43.9% shooting from the field, which is second in the NBA, behind only Orlando (43.6%).
Here are the Cavs' allowed field goal percentages by month: October 43.6%, November 44.5%, December 42.0%, January 43.1%, February 47.1%, March 43.6%.
So that's actually pretty consistent, aside from February, which was also a little out of control in the points allowed department. The Cavs allowed 101.3 points per game in February. The next highest month was November, when they allowed 95.8 points. They're giving up 94.1 points this month.
#7.) Mo has struggled to recapture his full game since being out for a month with a sprained shoulder. He has shown some serious flashes of "the old Mo" . . . especially on the offensive end . . . so it's probably only a matter of time.
In his 15 games since returning, Mo is averaging 12.5 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 39.3% from the field, 40.9% from beyond the arc, and 85.7% from the line.
Before his injury, he was averaging 16.9 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.6% from the field, 42.9% from beyond the arc, and 89.7% from the line. (Some of this, also, can be attributed to the adjustment to Antawn Jamison, who has emerged as the Cavs' current #2 on offense.)
In Mo's last five games, he's averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 50.0% from the field, 46.7% from beyond the arc, and 87.5% from the line. So that's good.
#8.) J.J. Hickson stood to lose a lot of playing time with Jamison joining the team (and also possibly with the return of Leon Powe). In fact, Mike Brown held him out of a game for the first time this season the game before the Boston game when Shaq went down.
But without Shaq and Z . . . he's continued to get good time. In this 10-game Shaq-less stretch, J.J. is averaging 22.9 minutes, 10.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, and is shooting 49.4%.
On the season, he's now averaging 19.9 minutes, 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, and is shooting 54.8%. That's third on the team behind Anderson Varejao (57.3%) and Shaq (56.6%).
#9.) Digging a little deeper on J.J.: Here are J.J.'s averages per month:
**Only four games and 33 total minutes played.
The highlight there is the growth in rebounding from November through March, while the minutes were relatively consistent. Also the field goal percentage. Sure, a lot of his makes are wide-open, weak-side dunks and fast-break throw-downs . . . but what's wrong with that?
#10.) And finally, there's Antawn Jamison . . . who has settled in nicely with the Cavs. (After that now-forgotten, historically-bad start when he shot 0-12 against Charlotte in his debut.)
In his first 13 games in Cleveland, Antawn has averaged 16.7 points (on 14.3 attempts a game), 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.6 blocks. He's shot 47.8% from the field, 35.4% from beyond the arc and 44% from the stripe.
In Washington, he had been averaging 20.5 points (on 17.1 attempts a game), 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.2 blocks. He'd shot 45.0% from the field, 34.5% from beyond the arc and 70% from the stripe.
In the 10 games without Shaq, he's leading the team with 9.1 rebounds . . . has the team's second best field goal percentage at 50.4% (behind the incredible Andy Varejao, who's shooting 72.9% in that stretch) . . . and is second on the team scoring 18.8 points. (Behind LeBron's 29.8 ppg in the last 10.)
[You can check out a fun bio on Antawn's life and career at this link.]
ll right, that's all the stat awesomeness I have for now. Could you take it?