“We’re going streaking,” said James, wearing a big grin, in a video posted to his Uninterrupted multimedia platform on Wednesday. “You know, in my best Will Ferrell voice. ‘Old School,’ one of my favorite movies. … It’s fun times right now.”
The fun times continued against the Hawks. The Cavs won 121-114 to run their winning streak to 10 games, the longest in the NBA at the moment.
“We know it’s 10 because everyone talks about it and everyone’s on social media and things of that nature,” James said after putting up 24 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, two steals and two highlight-worthy blocks in Atlanta. “But we understand how we got here. And that’s defense and the way we’ve been playing offensively. … If you win 10-plus games in any sport, major sport, that’s very, very good.”
Next up for the Cavs is a home game Saturday against the reeling Memphis Grizzlies, who were riding a nine-game losing streak as of Thursday night. James stressed that the team doesn’t want to get complacent.
“Saturday, it’s another struggling team, and we understand that,” he said. “But we understand we’re going to get their best in Memphis, so we look forward to the challenge.”
The Cavs’ run puts them ahead of the hottest teams in the NFL (Philadelphia Eagles, nine straight wins) and the NHL (New York Islanders, four straight wins), and they’re playing about as well as they have since James returned to Cleveland in 2014.
The 10-game winning streak is tied with the Cavs’ longest since the start of the 2015-16 regular season, which ended with a championship. They also won 10 in a row in both the 2016 and 2017 postseasons.
Cleveland’s hottest stretch during James’ second stint with the franchise was a 12-game streak from Jan. 15 to Feb. 5, 2015.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s definitely good,” said Wade, who contributed 19 points and four steals off the bench, his seventh game during the streak with double-digit scoring as a reserve. “You know, we was 5-7 at one point. Now we’re 15-7. We’re playing good basketball but even the games that we haven’t played great, we found ways to win. We played great in certain moments of the game. So, we’re not there yet from a standpoint of where we’re watching and we’re looking at the streak, but 10 in a row to end this month, it was a good win.”
The Cavs enter the month of December in a virtual tie with the Detroit Pistons for the No. 2 record in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics, who are in first place, got there thanks to a 16-game winning streak earlier in the season.
Kevin Love also had a strong night against Atlanta, scoring 25 points and tying a season high with 16 rebounds. It was the sixth time during the streak he scored 19 points or more.
“We’re running our stuff and we’re very locked in to what we want to get done,” Love said. “We felt early on in the season that might not have been the case, but I think on both sides of the ball we’ve been pretty good.”
During the Cavs’ streak they’ve had the third-most efficient offense in the league and fifth-most efficient defense in the league, according to NBA.com/Stats. Before the streak began, the Cavs were 30th in defensive efficiency, dead last in the league.
“It was kind of different for us,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of the win over the 4-17 Hawks after Cleveland came back from down by nine. “But I liked our composure. I thought we kept our composure, they got out to an early lead and we just kept chipping away. I thought in the second half I decided to start big and bring Jeff [Green] in there and put Bron on [Dennis] Schroder, which he did an unbelievable job. One of the best I’ve seen all year [defensively]. That was big time for us for him to guard Schroder. Got some big stops.”
The Cavs’ bench, led by Wade, has also been a key factor as of late. They scored 46 points against Atlanta.
“Well, winning helps,” Wade said of his improved mood. “This 10-game winning streak helps. But outside of that, man, just being around a lot of my peers. Guys I came into the league with. Guys I’ve been knowing for a long time. So, I’m just enjoying the game. My job and Kyle Korver and Channing Frye and Cedi [Osman] when he gets a chance and the bench guys, Jeff Green, our job is to come in and try to make this team better when we get on the floor. It doesn’t work every time but to me, it’s an easy job.”
Wade added: “You know, Kevin and Bron, they got the biggest burden on the team. They’re two guys, the two stars on this team. The rest of us got to chip in and right now I’ve been playing well of late, but on that second unit it could be anybody.”