1 stud and 1 dud for Cavs in their win over the Heat on Monday

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 3
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers are rolling. Following their 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night, the Wine and Gold are 17-12; good for fourth in the Eastern Conference after notching their fourth double-digit victory in a row. Per Basketball Reference, the Cavaliers sport the NBA’s fourth-best SRS and number one (!) in the Eastern Conference. An acronym for Simple Rating System, this metric takes a team’s overall point differential and adjusts for opponent point differential. Contextual grist given the schedule the Cavaliers have faced relative to the league so far.

While Cleveland’s offense (19th in the league, per Basketball Reference) has been respectable given their personnel, it’s been on the other side of the ball which has truly set them apart. Check out the five best Cavalier defenses compared to league average since 1999-2000 (per 100 possessions):

#1: 5.9 (2008-2009)

#2: 5.2 (2006-2007)

#3: 4.3 (2021-2022)

#4: 3.5 (2009-2010)

#5: 1.9 (2015-2016)

Sure, we’re not even half way through the season yet but this team currently finds itself among some special company. While the 2007 Cavaliers weren’t expected to climb as high as they did, all of the Cleveland teams above oozed title-contention, led by some iteration of zenith-level LeBron James. I’m not suggesting this Cavs team is a contender but considering their remaining schedule, there’s little reason to expect significant defensive regression. This topic deserves its own article but one thing appears certain: The defense is here to stay and it’s worth bringing up at every opportunity.

Monday’s victory at home over the Miami Heat, albeit depleted, was further evidence of the defensive chops this team has shown.  In 93 possessions, as considered by NBA.com’s box score, the Cavs held Miami to just 94 points – good for a defensive rating of 6.8 points per100 possessions better than league average.

It was never going to be easy though. After a 55-41 half time lead, the Heat used a 23-9 run to tie the game before a certain “stud” decided it was time to take over.

Speaking of studs, the candidates from this game were once again aplenty: Lauri Markkanen (12 points and +21 in 32 minutes), Isaac Okoro (18 points on 4-of-8 from 3-point range), Jarrett Allen (17 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 5-of-5 on free throws) and Darius Garland (16 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals) all deserved consideration for such a title.

One player however, despite waiting until the second half, rose to the top of the pile with a classic Cavalier performance.