Much has been made of Cleveland’s 11 game win streak. On ESPN, they have cemented their place as number one in the power rankings. Talk of LeBron becoming a consecutive MVP award winner has taken overtones of certainty. The Cavaliers role players have also been receiving heavy praise for their performances during the streak, especially after injuries to Delonte West and Mo Williams depleted the squad. I decided to take a look at some of the numbers involved in the win streak and see how much of the praise is hoopla and how much is deserved. Here’s what I found:
Quality of Opposition has been less than stellar during the streak. The average winning percentage of the teams, based on their record at the time they faced the Cavaliers, is only 44% (240-276). Of the nine teams they faced over 11 games, only 5 of them had a winning record. Cleveland played the Los Angeles Clippers twice and the Miami Heat twice during the stretch. Between games with the Cavaliers, those two teams combined for only one win (by the Heat) and six losses (two by the Clippers and four by the Heat). Only one team was of Cleveland’s caliber, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Margin of Victory steadily improved for the Cavaliers over the streak. The combined margin of victory over the first five games was only 17 points, including one point victories against the Clippers, the Thunder, and the Heat. Their average margin of victory over those first five games was 3.4 points. However, the Cavaliers improved steadily over the next six games. They increased their average margin of victory over those games to 16.5, including a 21 point victory over the Pacers followed by a 25 point victory over the Clippers. Over the 11 games, the Cavaliers have averaged 102.9 points per game, versus their opponents’ average of 92.4 points per game – a differential of 10.5.
Dominating the Boards was a big part of the Cavaliers streak. Over the 11 games, the Cavaliers were only out-rebounded once, by the Miami Heat (46-41). Otherwise, the Cavaliers dominated the boards throughout, including a monstrous game versus the Indiania Pacers wherein the Cavaliers pulled down an astonishing 61 total rebounds. Their average differential over the streak has been 5.4 more boards per game than the opposition.
Overall, the numbers point to a few factors that have been the foundation of Cavalier basketball during the win streak. First and foremost, the Cavaliers have shown mental toughness and confidence. It takes both to win close games, and hold on to big leads in routes. They have displayed it on both ends of the spectrum. They are playing tough defense, as displayed by the opposition’s low scoring average during the streak and by their dominance on the boards. Finally, the Cavaliers are humming offensively, scoring over 100 points per game during the streak. And while the quality of the opposition has not been the toughest, the Cavaliers have taken care of business, winning the games they should and must win to be considered NBA Championship contenders.