During the first quarter of the NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were an inconsistent mess on both ends of the court.
Through 23 games, they are beginning to settle themselves into a groove, but another unlucky injury has tied their ankles together. With Evan Mobley having missed the last two games right as the Cavaliers found their rhythm, it is nearly impossible to judge this team accurately. Cleveland is certainly far from a title favorite and might be in desperate need of a trade at the deadline.
Over their last 5 games, the Cavs are second in the NBA in defensive rating, but their offense is in the lower third of the league at No. 22. Something has to come around for Cleveland, whether it be consistent health or a personnel change, because they cannot afford to be in the bottom of the NBA in offense by the time the postseason arrives.
In their past week of action, the Cavaliers gone 2-1 after splitting two games with the Orlando Magic and winning their match against the Miami Heat. Currently, the Cavs find themselves in the midst of a brutal five-game road trip against many of the Eastern Conference's best teams. After their home win against the Magic on December 6, Cleveland has started their road journey 1-1.
Against Miami, the Cavaliers were without Evan Mobley while the Heat were missing Bam Adebayo. After a shocking four early fouls for Darius Garland, the Cavs mounted an 18-point run to overcome a 16-point deficit in the second quarter. From there, they kept their aggression strong and momentum alive. In the end, the Cavs overcame the 2023 Eastern Conference Champions 111-99.
When the Cavaliers arrived in Orlando, though, they battled a healthy Magic team that has been surging in the East all season long. Once again with Mobley, the interior physicality of Orlando outworked the Cavaliers in the 104-94 loss. Only three Cavaliers reached 10 or more points in the game: Darius Garland (36), Donovan Mitchell (22) and Tristan Thompson (10).
As a team, the Cavaliers shot 9-for-41 (22%) from deep and 30-for-85 (35.3%) from the field. With such an inefficient scoring performance, the Magic were able to capitalize on Cleveland's many mistakes and their lack of defensive presence; Mobley was out and Jarrett Allen fouled out in just 15 minutes.
From here, the Cavs need to brush off the loss and regain their momentum for the second half of a back-to-back when they face the Boston Celtics in TD Garden. With the Cavs finally capturing a greater level of success this year, these two Cavaliers will be x-factors to reclaim that momentum in the second half of the road trip.