Scouting the Second Half
The All-Star Break splits the NBA season in half, but that’s not technically true. Most teams have around 30 games to go. For the Wine and Gold, it’s 29 – 15 at home and 14 on the road – wrapping up the regular season against Brooklyn at The Q on April 16.
With All-Star Weekend behind us, we started looking ahead at the rest of the season and how it breaks down.
The Cavs have seven games remaining in both February and April – three road and four home. They play 15 games in March – eight on the road and seven at home.
But here’s a closer month-by-month breakdown of how those three will break down, opponent-wise …
February – The Cavaliers (20-33) start the second half with a back-to-back with Philadelphia and Orlando. The Sixers dropped eight straight headed into the All-Star Break, but beat Cleveland by 15 points in their first meeting and took them to OT in the second. The Magic lost their last game before the break, but won three straight before that – dropping Oklahoma City and Indiana by a point apiece in Orlando.
After that, two of the Cavaliers’ next three games are against the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors, one of only four teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record.
Sticking with the symmetry theme, the Wine and Gold close out February with one game against the top team in the West, one against a team with worst record in the West – facing the Thunder in OKC and Utah at The Q.
March – The month of March will be the Wine and Gold’s gauntlet and they will have to weather a withering mid-month stretch that includes a road matchup in Memphis followed by a home meeting with the Spurs. After a back-to-back against Charlotte and New York, the Cavs have six straight games against some onerous competition – with a three game homestand that might be more brutal than the three-game West Coast road trip that it follows. (How’s that for foreboding?)
That mid-March stretch sees Cleveland completing its Western Conference road schedule beginning in Phoenix on the 12th, then off to Golden State and finally L.A., with a matchup against the Clippers four nights later.
It doesn’t get any easier when the Wine and Gold come home. In games at The Q on March 18, 20 and 22, the Cavaliers face OKC, Miami and Houston, respectively.
At the All-Star Break, those three teams had a combined winning percentage of .737. The six teams Cleveland faces in this six-game stretch is .676.
Three of the Cavs’ final five games in March are on the road, including a pair of stops to New York – against the Knicks on March 23 and the Nets on the 28th.
Cleveland then faces Central Division leader and Eastern Conference leader Indiana on March 30 to close out the month of March.
April – If the Cavaliers are able to make their move, April is the quarter-turn in which to do it.
Teams can obviously make second-half runs, but as of today, none of Cleveland’s April opponents has a winning record. Their toughest matchups from here look like Atlanta – who the Cavs face on April 4th – and the Nets – who they close the season with on Fan App Night at The Q.
The schedule is also favorable in April simply in terms of the space between games. Granted, there’s a pair of back-to-backs wedged in, but the Cavs also have two stretches with three days’ rest between games. Their final four games stretch out over 11 days.
The combined winning percentage of the Cavs’ April opponents at the Break was .377. Their opponents’ in March was .582. The final seven foes in February is .468.
The Wine and Gold went into the Break with four straight wins and their record might be as deceiving as some of the opponents’ outlined above. Things are about to change across the NBA landscape, especially with the Trade Deadline looming in just two days.
The Cavaliers have to feel good coming out of All-Star Weekend. Aside from the four-game run, their two young backcourt stars – one the All-Star MVP and top-scoring PG in the East; the other, the Conference’s top bench scorer – combined for 62 points and 21 assists over the weekend.
Tristan Thompson is coming off two straight double-doubles and a 25-point, 15-rebound performance – notching 14 points in the last quarter of basketball before the Break. CJ Miles is shooting 44 percent from long-distance since January 1 and Matthew Dellavedova is the 2nd-leading three-point shooter among all rookies. And, speaking of rookies, Anthony Bennett looked like he’s started to find his footing, averaging 9.3 ppg in the six games preceding All-Star Weekend.
Veterans who went into the Break a little dinged-up, like Luol Deng and Anderson Varejao, are coming off a much-needed five-day break and are getting healthier everyday.
Several Cavaliers have shined individually over the past two weeks and they’ve all started tasting some success collectively. The only question now is – can they keep it rolling in the season’s second half?