Cavs Wins Convincing or Just One Shining Moment?

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(Picture Credit: Cleveland.com)

 

The Cavs have been on playing well as of recently, there’s no doubt about that.

In the new year, we’ve seen 6-game losing streaks turn into double-digit winning streaks. We’ve seen a young Kyrie Irving prove himself able to run an offense as he lit up two of the Western Conference’s best teams for the NBA’s two highest scoring games. We’ve seen Timofey Mozgov and Kevin Love work together down low to become a dominant front-court duo that can box out and shoot the midrange jumper better than nearly anyone.

But is this a fluke?

The Cavs have historically had seasons in which they prove themselves to be either extremely good (see 2008-2009) or extremely bad (see 2010-11). The record this year shows the Cavs as an eastern conference second-seed and many’s picks to win the NBA Finals. However, the amount of durability as an incredible team is what wins championships, and, with nothing besides the record to base the season off of, the question of whether or not our wins have been convincing comes to mind.

We may be 18 games ahead of .500, which is a huge plus, but that proves nothing about our strengths. Let’s take the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) into account. The way that the committee determines the seeding in the tournament is off of this statistic, which takes win percentage, opponents’ win percentage, and opponents’ opponents’ win percentage into account. The strength of schedule is extremely important, and so is the comparison of quality wins and losses against high RPI teams.

If the NBA were to use the RPI system, the Cavs would rank eighth in the entire NBA and second in the Eastern Conference, which is a settling statistic. It proves that we’ve beaten the teams we’ve needed to beat. However, this changes drastically in the past month. We’ve had some great wins, but we’ve also had some bad losses. In the past month, we’ve faced three RPI top 5 teams (Warriors, Hawks, Rockets). We’ve went 1-2 against them. While this statistic isn’t exactly concerning, the ability to beat great teams consistently is how to win a championship. If we can’t win against quality teams when they’re spread out in the schedule, you can’t expect us to win against them in a series.

With that being said, we haven’t lost against an RPI team ranked 6-10 since January 4th at home to the Rockets. This includes wins against the Spurs and the Clippers, both potential Finals-quality teams. Wins like these, while close ones, may prove to be more important in the long run. Aside from the Atlanta Hawks, whom of which we are 1-3 in the season against, strong teams from the Western Conference are the biggest thing barring us from a title. Unfortunately, We rank .500 against the top four seeded teams in the West as of right now. Although we have time to improve, we won’t face many of these teams until we potentially see them in the NBA Finals again.

While we do have the quality wins and losses down, we also need to lock down the weak teams. The loss from the god-awful Knicks was on Opening Night, and the Cavs haven’t really had struggles against any team ranked below 20 on the RPI scale. Dual losses to the 20th ranked Pacers have been pretty terrible, but, aside from that, the Cavs haven’t lost to any team ranked lower than 15 since January 15th against the Lakers. This is one of the best stats I can take out of this, as the Hawks have lost to two teams ranked lower than 20 already in March.

When looking at the RPI statistic, the Cavs have indeed been quality against weak teams and have at least pressured some of the elite in the nation. Tonight’s game against the Heat gives a chance for a weak loss to be added to our resume, which isn’t something we need to swing the Cavs’ momentum. The wins have for sure been quality, but whether or not they have a lasting impact on the teams morale is yet to be seen.

We’ll find out in the playoffs, but, for now, get ready for the Madness

 

-Max Alter, @CST_Max

 

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