Your Cleveland Cavaliers have won eight games in a row and sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Wine and Gold are the hottest team in the NBA right now with the league's highest current win streak. They have not lost since the first day of 2024 against the Toronto Raptors. Moreover, Cleveland is 10-2 in their last 12 games and is on the verge of returning two starters soon. Life is good as a Cavaliers fan right now. The question becomes, how have they done it?
How the Cavaliers have materialized their success
Simply put, defense and rebounding have been the focal points for the Cavs' latest success. Both of these basketball elements are team-oriented and to have great defense and rebounding, you need full commitment from every player. The Cavaliers are getting that team focus and the numbers support it. In the last eight games, the defense has a 100.4 rating and a 77.2 defensive rebounding percentage.
Both are some of the best in the league for the last eight games. The traditional stats back up their elite defense and rebounding as well, only allowing 98.5 points per game, an impressive feat in the modern NBA. They have averaged 49.5 rebounds per game in that same stretch, while only allowing 38.3 rebounds to opponents. Suffice it to say, dominating defense and rebounding wins games.
Unfortunately, the NBA is no longer in the 'Bully ball' era; therefore, rebounding and defense cannot win games alone. In today's NBA, offense is a huge focus. Moreover, offenses have to be efficient and have an effective 3-point shooting game. After the disappointing playoff exit against the Knicks last season, the Cavaliers made their offense a priority in the off-season.
At the start of the season, the Cavs had a slow start getting the offense to gel and in these last eight games, they have had a 123.3 offensive rating (ranked fourth). The combination of a great offensive rating and an elite defensive rating has scored the Cavs the leading net rating in that stretch. Kirk Goldsberry, a writer who often visualizes NBA data on Twitter, posted a graphic that has the Cavaliers' position on the chart near the elite teams of the NBA (Celtics, Timberwolves, and the Knicks). Hopefully, the Cavaliers can keep the elite play going into February and beyond.
The Cavaliers' culture has carried them through this adversity
Losing two starters for a lengthy period could be disastrous in the NBA. In mid-December, the Cavaliers were facing this reality. Some might have thought the season was over, some might have wanted to trade away players and rebuild, and some might have wanted to trade for replacements for Mobley and Garland. Well, none of that happened.
Instead, JB Bickerstaff set up a culture for the Cavaliers that has helped them excel and grow during this stretch. The Wine & Gold have shown a lot of perseverance since mid-December. One example of this was the game right before Christmas in Chicago. The Cavs were missing Garland, Mitchell, Mobley, LeVert, Merrill, Jerome and Rubio. Still, they won handily with a final 109-95 score.
Even when the Cavaliers were not playing their best basketball, the demeanor of the guys was never overly negative. The locker-room chemistry has been positive and cordial. Also, despite all of the trade rumors swirling around the Cavaliers, there have not been any press conferences or social media Freudian slips (unlike other teams).
The truth is that the Cavaliers squad is very close-knit and they often are spotted laughing it up on the sidelines during games. This team is having fun. Winning certainly helps that, but I feel that the Cavs' culture is strong enough to get through some losses as well.