Cavaliers 60 Game Recap

Chad W. Lutz
If the Cavaliers were a cheese they’d be Limburger. Right out of the wrapper, they stink. But given time, even the rankest of cheeses begin to hold their appeal. And that’s exactly how the Cavaliers 2012-2013 season has unfolded.

It began dismal, abysmal, appalling even. The Wine and Gold sat near the bottom of every NBA power ranking from Week 2 on. They’d win one and then lose six. They’d win two, and lose three, win one, lose four. That was how the Cavaliers played prior to January 21 with extreme regularity. You could almost smell their stink from the stands (or even your living room) they played so bad.

And then Cleveland made a trade with Memphis, and suddenly these formerly unknown basketball journeyman land in our laps and begin scoring tens of points every single night. Luke Walton suddenly wakes up from a near season-long slump, and Omri Casspi, finally, bows out. Even Zeller has shown flashes of brilliance and consistency of late, while Dion Waiters continues to develop into a solid two-man and vicious scorer.
Dion Waiters attacks the hoop against the Los Angeles Clippers March 1
(David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
The most impressive statistic over the last 10 games is in the win’s column. Cleveland has come alive. 40 games into the season, the Cavaliers sat 9-31, which is almost too discomforting to even mention. Since then, the Cavs have put together an awesome 11-8 record through the March 1 loss to the Clippers, beating teams like Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto, Oklahoma City and Chicago. Cleveland pushed the Spurs to the final seconds on February 13 and made the Heat earn their victory over the Wine and Gold on February 24. Now 20-40 off of last night's loss to the Knicks at home, the Cavaliers find themselves only two games back of Detroit and nipping at the heels of Toronto and Philadelphia in the wins/losses column.

Despite losing to San Antonio, Los Angeles, New York and Miami, Cleveland has either held tight or won out over opponents since acquiring Speights and Ellington January 21. Since joining the Cavaliers, Mo Speights and Wayne Ellington combine to average 22.1ppg off the bench in 17 games played. December 23 acquisition Shaun Livingston provides even more depth to the Cavalier bench, adding nearly 6.0ppg and 3.5apg in an average 20 minutes.
Marreese Speights drives to the hoop against Miami February 24
(Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
The toughest challenge for the Wine and Gold appears to be closing out down the stretch. The ability to hang close with tough teams says a lot about the future of the young squad, especially when you factor in a 14-game absence for Kyrie Irving this season, 9 games without Dion Waiters and 35 without Anderson Varejao. In a little less than a month, a bench that would almost inevitably sink any sort of lead the starting five generated heading into the latter parts of first quarters now puts defenses on their heels and outshoots opponents .742 to .713. Cleveland's bench now averages 29.7ppg on the season and forces an incredible 4.7 turnovers per game in just 80 minutes of total play.

What that translates to is wins. The Cavaliers have consistently increased their offensive efficiency since October, scoring 94.0ppg in the opening month, 95.7ppg in November, a season-low 92.1ppg in December, 99.3ppg in January and 106.4 in the month of February. Over the last 10 games, Cleveland ranks 9th in the NBA in points per game (103.0), holding opponents to 101.3ppg over that span.

With the season winding down, it appears the Cavaliers have just started heating up. Cleveland still holds a home-heavy schedule heading into crunch time, which may help build confidence in the young team already budding with promise. The players are having fun, the coaching staff seems pleased, and the wins keep coming. It's too early to call for a playoff push this season, which may see some of the impressive numbers posted by Kyrie and Co. slip a little as Byron Scott may choose to rest some of his players without the real promise of a playoff berth. But what we do see over the course of the next month and a half could give us a crystal-ball viewing of the team in future seasons.