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Op-Ed: Cleveland Cavaliers, a team to be feared

Though the Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off of a heartbreaking loss in an overtime thriller to Houston it seems easy to say that the Cavs are among the top in the NBA.

Having been on a tear of late, sans the last two games that the wine and gold dropped by a combined 5 points, Cleveland is showing followers of the NBA just what they expected to see when LeBron James rejoined his original club this past summer.

Starting the season trying to find how the stars of King James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving would align, the Cavaliers began the season humbly with a loss to the Knicks. Among some hiccups here and there the team seemed to hit their stride, stringing together two three-game winning streaks on either side of an eight-gamer that began November 24 against the Magic and saw its last victory against the Raptors on December 9.

These stretches helped push the Cavs to a 17-9 mark when disappointment struck. The loss of Anderson Verajao in a blowout victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves sent the team in a downward spiral. Verajao, a member of the Cavaliers since his rookie year in 2004 when the Magic shipped him and others to Cleveland in a trade, is hardly regarded as the best center in all of pro basketball but his near 10 points a game and just under seven rebounds per contest were sorrily missed.

In the time following Andy’s injury the Cavs put up a beleaguered mark of two wins and seven losses. All of that until trade wins began blowing off of Lake Erie, netting King James and the boys Timofey Mosgov from the Nuggets as well as JR Smith and Iman Shumpert courtesy the New York Knicks in two trade moves in early January. Taking a moment to mesh the Cavaliers went on to rip off 12 straight victories and our 19-3 since that lengthy winning streak began.

Currently holding onto 2nd place in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference the wine and gold, and sometimes blue, hold a 37-24 record over 61 games with a win percentage of .606. However, had the season began with the roster owned by Dan Gilbert’s squad post trade moves the team would likely hold a much higher percentage. Since adding Timo, JR, and Iman, the team is 18-7 in 25 matches which gives them a win percentage of .720, not nearly as far behind the NBA’s best, the Golden State Warriors who sit with a .807 percentage as the overall win mark would indicate.

Speaking of those same Warriors, before the unfortunate two-game skid the Cavs hit, they knocked off the Stephen Curry-led unit 110-99 in what many believe to be an NBA Finals preview. However, the Warriors are not alone. When it comes to teams that are currently either first or second in their division, and there for have a very reasonable chance of being in the playoffs and possibly making a finals run, the Cavaliers have fared very well.

Against teams currently in first in their division, the Cavaliers hold an 8-6 record. Additionally, against the current second-place teams throughout the league they are 7-4 giving them a total record of 15-10 against these opponents. Among those same teams the Cavs hold a winning record against six of them in head-to-head play, and a .500 record against two more, leaving only three teams that have bested Coach David Blatt’s unit in head-to-head match-ups. Against all of these teams the Cavs have notched a win except for the earlier mentioned Rockets who hold a two-win advantage against Cleveland.

So do not hold the last two losses against this team. They have proven already this season that they can come back from worse, whether it’s injuries, or slumps they have show a championship level of talent, and work ethic ranging from the coaches to the players. Take head coach David Blatt for example. Hired before the return of the King, Blatt did not sign on to coach a team headlined by three super star talents in James, Love, and Irving. Irving was the only member of the current starting five when Blatt took the job. Yet, he has masterfully brought the team out of a drought when wins were scarce early on to be among the most feared teams to play in the NBA.

For a team that looked so lost, and many wondered if this collection of stars could find their sea legs together on the coast of Lake Erie things are certainly looking up for the Cleveland Cavaliers as the home stretch of the NBA season is just around the corner.

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