You knew that the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to right the ship at some point. It was just a matter of when not if. And obviously, the time is now.
Cleveland (10-7) has run off a season-high five straight wins, and as a result has moved into the top-10 of these rankings for the first time in three weeks (this is the third edition of my power rankings). The Cavs have tallied 115 or more points in three straight games. They have also scored at least 110 points in eight of nine games and topped the century mark for 15th time. The Cavaliers are 5-1 in games they have scored at least 115 points.
The offense has not been the problem for the Cleveland. The Cavaliers rank third in the Association in scoring at 110.9 a game and fourth in offensive rating (109.4). The Cavs rank sixth in field goal percentage (47.2%) and sixth in 3pters made (11.2) though they are just 15th in 3pt% (36.0).
LeBron James, of course leads the way, has been outstanding this season. The King has recorded three double-doubles in his last five games. Overall, he has topped the 30-point mark in seven of his 10 November games and is averaging 30.9 points, 8.5 assists and 7.6 rebounds this month. James, who has shot over 50% in nine of the last 10 games, is shooting 57.9% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc in this 10-game stretch.
James has gotten a lot of help lately. Kevin Love has lacked consistency but has been solid all year. But more importantly, Jae Crowder along with Dwyane Wade and Jeff Green have increased their efficiency. And Kyle Korver and JR Smith are knocking down long distant shots on a consistent basis.
However, the biggest reason for the Cavs spurt is that they are playing hard on defense. Although they still have issues on that end of the court.
Cleveland held Detroit to a season-low 88 points on Monday, marking just the third time all season that they have held an opponent to less than 100 points and first time since the first two games of the season. On the plus side, the Cavaliers have gotten better on the defensive end as the game progresses. They are surrendering 29.2 points in the first quarter, 28.2 in the second quarter, 26.6 in the third and 26.1 points in the fourth. That may not seem like a significant improvement. But those numbers goes from ranking 29th in the league (first quarter) to 19th in the fourth.
Cleveland is still 28th in scoring defense, permitting 110.8 points a game, and last in defensive rating (109.4). They also are 29th in opponent shooting percentage (47.1%), 26th in opponent 3Pt% (38.4).
1. Boston Celtics (16-2), no movement
The Celtics extended their win streak to 16 after escaping Dallas with a 110-102 victory over the hapless Mavericks on Monday night. The win over the Mavs marked the third straight game that game that the C’s overcame a double-digit deficit. Once again Kyrie Irving came to the rescue. Over the final five minutes of the game in this mini-stretch, Irving has outscored the Celtics opponents himself 36-34 as he has knocked down 11-of-15 shots including 3-of-5 from 3pt-land and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
Irving exploded for a season-high 47 points, on 16-of-22 shooting and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc on Monday. He has tallied at least 30 points in consecutive games for the first time this year and has totaled 25 or more points in three of the last four games.
Jaylen Brown has also come up huge for C’s the last three games, reaching the 20-point plateau in three games in a row for the first time in his career. Brown is compiling 23.3 points and 6.6 rebounds along with 3.3 three-pointers over this trio of games.
Boston is in the midst of its longest winning streak since reeling off a franchise record 19 straight from Nov. 15 to Dec. 23, 2008. The 16 straight wins is the fourth longest in franchise history. The Celtics have had to overcome fourth-quarter double-digit deficits in four of his last six games. The C’s have the second highest fourth quarter fourth scoring margin outscoring their opponents by 3.0 points a game though they have upped that to 6.7 over the last three games. Boston is 9-1 in road games which ties Houston for the best mark in the league.
2. Golden State Warriors (13-4), no movement
The Dubs have won 9-of-10 with their lone loss coming to the Celtics. After scoring a season-low nine points in the loss to Boston (Thursday), Steph Curry responded by topping the 30 point mark in his last two contests including throwing in a season-high 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting in win over Brooklyn (Sunday). Golden State leads the Association with a 1.80 assist-to-turnover ratio though that is their lowest ratio since 2013-14.
3. Houston Rockets (13-4), no movement
The Rockets are 8-1 in their last nine games after winning 2-of-3 this past week. James Harden has been out of this world over the past six games, averaging 40.2 points and 11.2 assists, joining Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Tiny Archibald as the only players in NBA history to average at least 40 points and 10 assists during a six-game stretch. Houston, which scored the second most points in the first half (90) in NBA history against the Raptors on Thursday, is producing a league-high 61.9 first-half points this season.
4. Toronto Raptors (11-5), +3 spots
The Raptors went 4-0 this past week. DeMar DeRozan, who has made 10 or more field goals in each of his last three games, is having the most efficient season of his career producing 1.407 points per shot and posting a .498 shooting efficiency. Toronto ranks third in the Association in true shooting percentage (58.9%) as well as third in effective shooting percentage (55.0%).
5. San Antonio Spurs (11-6), no movement
The Spurs got their seventh win in their last nine games. San Antonio, which was outscored by 17 points by the Thunder in the opening quarter (Friday), has the eighth-best scoring margin in the first quarter (+1.6) this season though they have been outscored by an average of 2.1 points in the first 12 minutes in road games. LaMarcus Aldridge continued his resurgence this past week, averaging 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 36-for-73 (49.3%).
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-7), +2 spots
The Timberwolves have lost two straight to begin a four-game stretch against Eastern Conference games. The consecutive losses to the Pistons and Hornets drop the Wolves record to 2-4 against Eastern Conference squads. Minnesota is now 2-4 in its three sets of back-to-back games.
Jimmy Butler has upped his production over the six game, topping 20 points four times and picking up two double-doubles. Butler is still struggling with his shooting though as he is shooting 42.2% from the field while making less than one 3pter a game. With Butler, Jeff Teague and Wiggins getting more comfortable with each other, Karl-Anthony Towns numbers have slipped a little in November. Towns has picked up seven double-doubles in his last nine games with his 18-point and 12-rebound effort in a loss to Charlotte on Monday. He has 13 double-doubles this season.
Towns has not broken the 20-point plateau in the last three games and has only done so in three of his 10 games this month. The 7-0 big man produced 24.1 points and 11.9 boards while shooting 58.0% from the floor in October. A big reason for the drop in production is that he is taking fewer shots in November and not getting to the foul line as much.
Minnesota is giving up the fourth most points off turnovers (19.3) despite only coughing the ball up 15.0 times a game, which ranks 12th in the league. The Wolves also are allowing 14.4 fast break points which is the second most.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-7), +12 spots
8. Detroit Pistons (11-6), -4 spots
The Pistons have lost three of four with their shellacking at the hands of the Cavs on Monday (!16-88). The loss is the Pistons largest of the season and marked the second time this season they have failed to reach 90 points.
Andre Drummond, the league leader in total rebounds and offensive caroms, saw his double-digit rebound streak come to an end Monday as he finished with just eight boards along with eight points. Drummond leads the league in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds and rebound percentage as well as offensive rebound percentage.
Detroit, No. 9 in three-pointers per game (11.1) and No. 6 in three-point percentage (38.5%), has made 12 or more treys in 7-of-its-last-8 contests. The Pistons have outscored their opponents by 3.2 points a game in the fourth quarter, which leads the league.
9. Washington Wizards (10-7), -3 spots
The Wizards have lost consecutive games three times this season but they have not lost three straight. Bradley Beal has tallied 20 or more points in his last four games and 13th time this season. Beal is averaging a career-high 24.2 points while shooting 48.2% from the field which ties his highest percentage of his career that he set last year.
Washington, 5-3 on the road, shoots better at home overall than they do on the road (47.9% to 44.8%) through the Wiz are making more three-pointers (10.9-to-8.3) and at a higher rate (41.8%-to-33.1%) on the road.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (8-8), +2 spots
The Bucks have lost two straight and are now 5-2 since acquiring Eric Bledsoe. Tony Snell is second in the league in true shooting percentage (69.3%) and fourth in effective field goal percentage (67.7%). Milwaukee, the worst offensive rebounding team (7.3) in the league, has grabbed an average of 8.2 O-boards a game over there last three contests though they are still hauling in 1.5 offensive rebounds fewer than they did last year (8.8).
11. Portland Trail Blazers (10-7), +4 spots
The Blazers have won four of five. Damian Lillard,7th in the league in free throw percentage (93.0%), went 10-of-10 from the free throw line against the Grizzlies on Monday to give him 2,007 makes for his carer. Portland is second in the league in defensive rating (98.5) and scoring defense (97.2) as they have held their last five opponents under 100 points, including two of those five to less than 90.
12. Indiana Pacers (10-8): +11 spots
The Pacers have won four in a row and 5-of-6. Bojan Bogdanovic has pumped in a season-high 26 points in consecutive games, giving him 14 double-figure scoring games this season. On Wednesday, Darren Collison became the first player in franchise history to score 30 points, shoot 12-for-12 or better from the line and dish at least eight assists with no more than one turnover.
13. New Orleans Pelicans (9-8), -3 spots
The Pelicans are 3-3 in their last six games. Rajon Rondo had his best game of the season in his third game since returning from sports hernia surgery, scoring 13 points and doling out six assists in a loss to Denver on Friday. New Orleans, which is surrendering the 27th most points a game (110.4), is 0-5 when giving up 115 or more points.
14. New York Knicks Knicks (9-7), -3 spots
The Knicks are 3-3 in their last six. New York improved to 8-3 at home with its 107-85 victory over the Clippers. All five of the Knicks double-digit wins have come at home, which includes three 20-point victories, where they are outscoring their opponents by 7.0 points a game at MSG.
Leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis has struggled with his shot lately, knocking down just 34.2% of his shots over the last four games while averaging 20.0 points during that stretch.
New York leads the league in fewest paint points allowed at 38.6 points a game. The Knicks are also second in second-chance points (16.2) and tied for third in mid-range shooting with 16.1% of all their points coming from that range.
15. Denver Nuggets (10-7), -2 spots
The Nuggets have won five of seven. The Nugs are 6-5 in games decided by 10 or more games which is the second most in the league.
Leading scorer Nikola Jokic, who was ejected along with coach Mike Malone (Sunday), has been held to six points in two of the last four games and tallied just 41 points during the four-game stretch. Denver leads the NBA with 16.7 second-chance points a game.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (9-7), no movement
The 76ers are tied with the Hawks with the fewest home games this season to date with six (3-3). Joel Embiid, who compiled a career-high 46 points to go along with 15 rebounds and seven blocks against the Lakers (Wed.), posted three double-doubles in his last four games following his 15-point, 10-rebound effort against Utah on Monday. The Sixers 21 point victory over the Jazz (107-86) is their largest of the season.
Ben Simmons, who scored a season-high 27 points on Monday, has topped the 20-point plateau in three of his last four games while JJ Redick has done so in the last two contests,
Philadelphia is the second highest scoring team in the opening quarter this season, tallying 30.2 points a game although they have upped their first quarter production to 33.7 ppg over their last three games thanks to a season-high 47.0 point effort against the Warriors.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9), +1 spot
The Thunder are 3-2 in their last five games after losing suffering two straight losses. Since 2010-11, Paul George -- who has led OKC in scoring seven times this season -- has missed an NBA-high 21 straight three-pointers in the final 24 seconds of the game that would have tied the game or given his team the lead. Russell Westbrook picked up his fifth double-double of the season on Monday night in a loss to the Pelicans.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (7-8), -9 spots
The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 8-of-10. Memphis, third in defensive rating, has allowed over 100 points in all of their losses and is now 2-9 when opponents have hit the century mark. After reaching double figures just once in his first six games, Chandler Parsons has scored 10 or more points in four of his last eight games.
Starting point guard Mike Conley has missed three straight with a sore Achilles.
19. Orlando Magic (8-9), -6 spots
The Magic have lost five straight to fall below .500 for the first time since the second game of the season. The five losses, which includes a 40-point home loss to Utah (Sat.), have been by an average of 16 points. The 40-point setback tied a franchise record for the largest home loss.
Backup point guard D.J. Augustin returned after missing seven games and finished with no points and one assist in 17 minutes of action against the Jazz (Sat.) while rookie Jonathan Isaac (ankle) has missed four straight games.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (8-10), -2 spots
The Lakers have lost 5-of-7. Lonzo Ball joined Magic Johnson as the only rookie in franchise history to pick up multiple triple-doubles in a season when he posted 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds -- which is the most by a rookie this season -- and 11 assists against the Nuggets on Sunday. Los Angeles is last in the league in both 3pters made per game (7.3) and 3pt percentage (29.4%).
21. Miami Heat (7-9), -1 spot
The Heat have lost 3-of-4. Wayne Ellington, who pumped in 21 points with all of his points coming on 3pters on Sunday, nets 87.5% of his points from beyond the arc -- second highest percentage in the league -- as he averages 2.4 made field goals and 2.2 made 3pters per game. Miami suffered its worst loss of the season with its 120-95 setback to Indiana on Sunday.
22. Phoenix Suns (7-11), +3 spots
The Suns are on a two-game winning streak for the third time this season and are now 7-8 under interim coach Jay Triano. Greg Monroe, who made his debut for the Suns this week, picked up a double-double in his first game with the team and is averaging 12.0 points along with 6.0 rebounds in 21 minutes a game through three contests. Phoenix is second to last in assist percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio and assist ratio.
23. Utah Jazz (7-11), -1 spot
The Jazz have lost four-of-five and 8-of-10. Leading scorer Rodney Hood has been much more productive coming off the bench than as a starter, averaging 19.1 points and 3.6 3pters as a reserve in six games compared to 16.1 ppg and 2.2 treys as a starter in nine contests. Utah leads the league in free throw shooting percentage at 83.6%.
24. Charlotte Hornets (7-9), no movement
The Hornets snapped a six-game losing streak this past week and now have won two in a row at home to improve to 6-2 at the Spectrum Center. Dwight Howard is in fact alive. Following two consecutive substandard games, Howard posted double-doubles in his last two games. In fact, his 25-point, 20-rebound and four blocked shot performance on Monday in win over Minnesota was his best game of the season. He had up 16 points and 16 rebounds on Saturday. Howard, who shot 75% (15-of-20) from the field over the last two games, has four double-doubles this month and eight on the season.
Howard now has 49 20 point, 20 rebounds games in his career which the most among active players. He is the first Hornet player to post such numbers since Al Jefferson is 2013.
Charlotte is 2-2 since veteran Nic Batum returned last Wednesday. Batum produced his best scoring game against the Wolves, compiling a season-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The veteran wing is averaging 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in four games.
Veteran swingman Nic Batum made his season debut this week, compiling 12.3 points along with 5.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds in three games. Charlotte’s 123-120 loss to Chicago on Friday marked its 11 consecutive loss of three-points or less, which is tied for the second longest streak in NBA history.
The Hornets are shooting an NBA worst 70% from the charity stripe and a major reason is due to Howard’s woes there. Howard, who made 9-of-14 of his free throws on Monday, is shooting a career-low 42.9% from the free throw line. On the plus side, the Hornets tops the league in fewest turnovers (13.5) and turnover percentage (13.3).
25. Los Angeles Clippers (5-11), -4 spots
The Clippers, who have one win in November, possess the league’s longest current losing streak at nine. Los Angeles, which is 2-6 away from home, ranks 22nd on the road in scoring defense as they are giving up 5.1 more points on the road (109.4) than they are at home (104.0). The Clippers are 1-10 when giving up 100 or more points.
Overall, Los Angeles has been outscored by 6.7 points a game in November as they are shooting just 33.1% from beyond the arc and turning the ball over 16.0 times.
Blake Griffin has really struggled recently with his shot. Griffin, who is averaging 22.8 points this season, has not made 50.0% of his shots in any of his last eight games, In the meantime, DeAndre Jordan racked up his third 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career while shooting 80% from the floor (on Friday) to become the third player in the last 40 years to post such numbers.
26. Brooklyn Nets (6-10), no movement
The Nets have lost 3-of-4. Allen Crabbe has scored at least 15 points in three straight games while going 14-for-27 (51.9 percent) from three-point range. Brooklyn is the only team that has not had a game decided by three or fewer points.
27. Sacramento Kings (4-13), no movement
The Kings have dropped five of six since winning two in a row. Willie Cauley-Stein, who picked up his third double-double of the season on Friday, has scored in double-figures in consecutive games for the third time this season when he combined to put up 40 points along with 19 rebounds in the home and home series with the Blazers (Fri. and Sat.). Sacramento has a league high nine road losses (1-9 overall) and also ranks last in scoring margin at minus-12.6.
28. Chicago Bulls (3-12), no movement
The Bulls began a four-game road trip with a 113-105 loss to the Suns (Sunday) to fall to 1-7 away from home. Second-year point guard Kris Dunn has played reasonably well this year though turnovers are a problem as he is compiling 11.5 points, 3.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals in November. Chicago is shooting an NBA worst 41.4% from the field and part of the reason is that number is so low is that they are shooting a paltry 38.4% at home.
29. Atlanta Hawks (3-14), no movement
The Hawks have lost 6-of-7 and have the fewest home wins this season (1). Kent Bazemore, No. 2 in the league in steals per game at 1.9, has stepped up his offensive efficiency recently as he has shot 45% from the floor or better in five of his last six games while averaging nearly 16.5 points during that span. Atlanta ranks second in three-point percentage (39.1%) and third in steals per game (9.0).
30. Dallas Mavericks (3-15), no movement
The Mavericks ended their four-game skid on Saturday against the Bucks with a 111-79 victory, marking their largest margin of victory and the fewest points surrendered on the season. Dirk Nowitzki failed to score in double figures for the fifth time this season (Sat.), but he knocked down 1-of-3 3pt attempts to become the 14th player in NBA history to make 1,800 triples. On Friday, Nowitzki surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon on the all-time field goal made list though it is unlikely he will be able to move up any further as he is 219 made fields behind No. 7 Elvin Hayes.
Harrison Barnes has carried the offensive load for one of the worst offensive teams in the league. Barnes tied a season-high with 31 points on Monday and has reached double-figures in all 10 of his November games. The 25-year-old is averaging 21.6 points along with 7.5 rebounds while shooting 50.0% from the field and 35.1% from beyond the arc.
The Mavericks rank 28th in scoring (99.1) and 27th in offensive rating (99.3) this year. The Mavs are shooting just 42.2% from beyond the arc. They have been held to under 100 points in three of the last five games and 10 times overall.