The 8-37 Cavaliers have lost 18 straight games and 28 of their last 29 on their way to claiming the worst record in the league. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that the Cavaliers are considerably worse than their record indicates.
As bad as the Cavs’ record indicates, the team’s win margin is far uglier: The team is a respectable 2-3 in games decided by three points or less (meaning that a full 25% of the team’s wins have come by three points or less), and the Cavs are an abysmal 0-24 in games decided by 10 points or more. To provide some perspective on that last statistic, the 10-34 Timberwolves are 6-15 in games decided by 10 points or more. The Vegas spread for Tuesday’s Cavaliers-Celtics game was 17 points, and that ended up being a push.
If it wasn’t for the team’s 7-8 start (which was the product of a miracle win against the Celtics and weak scheduling), the Cavaliers would almost certainly be in the hunt for the worst record ever. As it is now, the Cavaliers are chasing the dubious “honor” of being one of the only teams to finish the season with the lowest offensive and defensive efficiency in the league. I’ll let Zach Lowe of The Point Forward explain:
As the Celtics approached 70 points during the first half last night, I found myself wondering if Cleveland might wind up dead last in both offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions).
The Cavs have been last in offensive efficiency for a while now — a remarkable thing, considering how bad Milwaukee’s offense has been — and Tuesday’s night’s effort in Boston dropped Cleveland to into a tie with Toronto for the next-to-last spot in the defensive efficiency rankings. Only the Suns stand in between the Cavs and a unique level of infamy.
That naturally prompted a question that both Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference and I tackled this morning: Has any team finished last in both categories?
Turns out, two have pulled the trick in the three-point era (starting in the 1979-80 season):
• The 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers (12-70, Player Efficiency Rating Leader — Michael Cage, 17.1): 101.2 points scored/100 possessions vs. 112.3 points allowed/100 possessions. Net difference: -11.1.
The 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks (11-71, PER later–Derek Harper, 15.9): 99.5 points scored/100 possessions vs. 114.7 points allowed/100 possessions. Net difference: -15.2.
Currently, the Cavaliers are losing games by an average of 12.1 points per game, which would be the fourth-worst mark since the 1979-80 season if the season ended today. And that point margin will likely be worse by the end of the season.
In short, the Cavaliers have not won in over a month, they are losing by historically wide margins, they were the worst team in basketball when healthy and have suffered a slew of injuries, and they will need to beat either the Nuggets, Heat, or Magic to prevent going winless in January. Times are bleak in Cleveland, and there won’t be many happy times for Cavalier fans before the 2011 draft — which the Cavaliers are assured a high pick in, at least.