The Cleveland Cavaliers on December 14th had a record of 13-12 and now sit one game behind the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Let that sink in.
Since then, the Cavs have gone 18-4 and have firmly put themselves in contention in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, the Wine and Gold was 11-2 in January and regained their two young stars Evan Mobley and Darius Garland. The Cavaliers took full advantage of their January schedule by playing some of their best basketball. In February, the Cavaliers must do the same and continue to stack wins on wins to prove the doubters wrong.
2024 has looked good on the Cleveland Cavaliers, no longer in the year of playoff demise at the hands of the New York Knicks. January gave the Cavs numerous highlights, including the win in a win in the franchise's first trip to Paris, the 40-point drubbing of their division rival Milwaukee Bucks and Donovan Mitchell winning the Player of the Month Award for the Eastern Conference.
Starting off on the right note
The basketball cynic will say that the Cavaliers in January had the least amount of games (13), no back-to-backs and the most rest days (18) of any other NBA team. No wonder they were 11-2!
The bad news for non-believers is Cleveland's schedule luck continues. The Cavaliers have the easiest strength of schedule. Their opponents' cumulative winning percentage is only 42.9 percent. The Cavs will have only 13 games this month, but only five of them will be at home. Although the four back-to-backs will test the squad as all four of the second games are road games. Thankfully the All-Star break will give the boys some rest, but the month should not be as easy as it seems.
So far, so good. The Cavaliers have won the first two games of the month and have managed to reinsert both young stars. Evan Mobley had a statement game on Saturday against the Spurs (sorry Big Vic). Of the 13 games in February, the Cavs play five teams with winning records. Two of those games are against the banged-up and struggling Philadelphia 76ers. While the rest of their games are against lesser threats, the Cavaliers should be careful to not take some of these games for granted.
This coming week the Cavaliers have five games in seven days including three road games. This will be a real test of their fitness. The Cavaliers' confidence in their depth should help if the starters get heavy legs with all the travel. The adversity brought by this season has given Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his staff a myriad of options if the original game plan does not work. The question becomes, will the Cavaliers make any moves before the coming trade deadline?
Right now, the Cavaliers are one game away from the second place in the East behind the Milwaukee Bucks. When Mobley and Garland first went down, few fans would have predicted that. Also, no Cavs fan would have predicted the way they went 18-4 with the bombs-away approach and turning to unheralded bench players to help get results.
As the season progresses, the Cavaliers will need to continue to build on the foundation they have set this season. They still may have their doubters when it comes to the postseason, but this month's schedule should help the Cavaliers secure a top seed and homecourt advantage to begin the postseason.