Another week, another 10 things to like -- and dislike! -- across the NBA, from shockingly poor defense in Toronto to a balletic performance in Milwaukee to the most aggressively boring team in basketball ... to something brewing in Cavs land?!
1. Oh, hey, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still here
The Cavs were supposed to be dead. They've faced the league's strongest schedule. Every key player but bench savior Ricky Rubio has missed at least two games. Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love have both missed about half the season so far. Collin Sexton has too, and he's not coming back.
And yet: The Cavs are 12-10 with the league's No. 3-ranked defense and ninth-best point differential. If that defense is anything like real, the Cavs will hang in the play-in race.
The only red flag: Their opponents have hit 32.9% on 3s, third lowest overall. But the Cavs haven't allowed many 3s, and they should withstand warmer enemy shooting if they keep attempts down.
They have yielded bundles of shots at the rim, but that may be somewhat by design: Good freaking luck finishing around Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley -- the front-runner (by a hair over Scottie Barnes, who somehow plays with electricity and chill at once) for Rookie of the Year. Even when the Cavs split those two up, they have plenty of length. (One accidental benefit of Sexton's absence is playing Isaac Okoro more at shooting guard instead of small forward.)
Their opponents have hit just 58% at the rim -- second lowest, per Cleaning The Glass. That doesn't feel like a fluke.
They're 21st in scoring efficiency, and it's hard to see them finishing above league average -- or even reaching there. But there are signs of hope. Markkanen's shot is coming around, and they'll need him to help prop up the offense when Darius Garland rests. Cleveland has scored about 110 points per 100 possessions with Garland, but just 95.5 when he sits.
I wrote about Allen's blossoming post game two weeks ago, and he has only gotten nastier since. He's calling for the ball now, and the Cavs look for him.
Garland is an expert at changing pace, and his floater is a weapon; he has hit 51% on midrangers. He uses the identical release on layups and lobs, and that disguise keeps defenders guessing until the ball is in midair. The threat of Garland's floater gets Allen alley-oops, and the threat of those alley-oops gets Garland floaters.
Garland is patient and creative: