In a season where the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't start out how they wanted to, the Wine and Gold have found ways to get themselves right back into the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.
After starting out the campaign largely up and down, the Cavaliers are now 22-15 on the season, and at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference Standings. In the Cavaliers' last 13 games, they've gone 9-4, and despite Darius Garland and Evan Mobley both being out of the lineup for nearly a month, Cleveland has been playing quality ball.
Following their win over the Brooklyn Nets in Paris on Thursday, the Cavaliers have won four straight contests, and among clubs in their last 13 games, Cleveland has placed sixth in net rating. In that span, Cleveland has ranked second in three-pointers made per outing, and even without two of their top guns, the Cavs have been playing team ball, and they've fully embraced the next man up mentality.
Players such as Isaac Okoro, Craig Porter Jr. and Sam Merrill have stepped up, and since his return from a four-game absence because of illness, Donovan Mitchell has done a nice job leading this group.
It's been encouraging to watch the Cavaliers turn the corner in recent weeks, and recently, they moved up a bit in Bleacher Report's latest Power Rankings. Andy Bailey of B/R had Cleveland at No. 15 in his latest B/R Rank, from Friday, which was two slots up from their last ranking.
Bailey gave Mitchell his flowers for his Paris performance and keeping the Cavs in the thick of things, and he gave Jarrett Allen, and role pieces like Max Strus and Merrill their credit. But Bailey stating how Mitchell has averaged "27.9 points and 6.8 assists per 75 possessions" when Garland and Mobley have been off the floor, and that the "Cavs are outscoring their opponents" in those stretches, was all the more impressive.
How Cleveland has responded in recent weeks as a group has been huge for their season.
The Cavs are a surging squad, and led by Mitchell and Allen, they now find themselves in a nice spot.
Even without the services of Garland and Mobley, the Cavaliers have gotten themselves on the right track, and their bench contributions and next man up approach has meant a great deal, as was aforementioned.
It's been crucial how players such as Okoro and Merrill have given the Cavaliers a lift, and when the opportunities have been there, Porter has made a two-way impact. Merrill was off in the last Nets game, but on the year, he's made 41.2 percent of his three-point looks, and in his last 10 appearances, he's averaged 12.0 points per game, and has emerged as a flamethrower.
As Bailey demonstrated above, though, Mitchell deserves his share of credit for the Wine and Gold turning things around, too.
In Mitchell's last six games since returning from illness, he's had splits of 28.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds per contest, and has averaged 2.3 steals. Also, in Paris, he had 45 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals, in leading the Cavs to another quality win; he did have seven turnovers, but Mitchell's all-around efforts were one of the driving forces for Cleveland in that last W.
Without the services of Garland, Mitchell's efforts have been massive for this team, and it's been rewarding to see his chemistry with Jarrett Allen, who has been on quite a tear, continue to improve.
All things considered, however, with what the Wine and Gold have done over the last month or so, it's put them in solid position at this point in the season. Fans have to be looking forward to seeing what shakes out for Cleveland in the days and weeks leading into the trade deadline from here, where it seems the Cavaliers are rumored to be seeking three-and-D wing help.
It's going to likely take some finetuning once again with Garland reportedly on track to be back fairly soon, but having Garland back will be a welcomed readjustment for the Cavs.