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Unselfish Cavaliers dish out 38 assists while feasting on Kings | Jeff Schudel

Feb. 5—Early in the 2023-24 season, the Cavaliers were like a newborn colt, stumbling in the corral and trying to gain its footing. Now they are one of the top thoroughbreds in the NBA.

Evidence of their transformation is in the standings. They beat the Sacramento Kings, 136-110, on Feb. 5 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to win for the 14th time in the last 15 games. The victory moved them percentage points ahead of Milwaukee for second pace in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are 32-16. The Bucks are 33-17. The Celtics, 38-12, have a five-game lead on both teams.

"That's good, but this is February," cautioned Donovan Mitchell, who led the Cavs with 29 points. "At the end of the day, we're just trying to continue playing the way we've been playing. It's going to be talked about, two-seed, but it matters where we are come April and how we finish."

More specific evidence than their spot in the standings is the contrast of the Cavs' two games with the Kings. The two teams met on Nov. 13 in Sacramento. The Cavaliers ended up on the short end of a 132-120 score. The loss dropped them to 4-6.

PHOTOS: Cavaliers vs. Kings, Feb. 5, 2024

A 38-point swing in an 85-day span is about much more than the Cavaliers having home-court advantage in the second matchup. But on that note, it hasn't mattered where the Cavs play during their climb in the Eastern Conference. Their 14-8 road record is the best in the entire NBA.

"I think we figured each other out first and foremost as we got some reps together," Coach J.B. Bikerstaff said when asked about the difference in the way the Cavs are playing now compared to the November matchup with Sacramento. "Obviously, we're still working Darius (Garland) and Evan (Mobley) kind of back in on their minutes (from injuries) and those types of things, but I think there's a clear picture of what it looks like, what we do well.

"When we play Cavs hoops, you know what that looks like now. Guys can kind of fill in and step into their role. And I think that's the difference. Before we were just trying to figure it out."

The NBA is filled with good teams and bad teams and a handful of in-between teams. The Kings, like the Cavs, are one of the good teams. Sacramento was 26-16 before playing the Cavs. The Los Angeles Clippers were riding a five-game winning streak when they visited the FieldHouse on Jan. 29. The Cavs ended the streak, 118-108. Three nights earlier, the Cavs tripped up the Bucks, 112-100, in Milwaukee.

"We're having fun. We're celebrating each other,"Cavaliers forward Max Strus said Monday night after the #Cavaliers assisted on 51 baskets in beating the Sacramento Kings, 136-110. pic.twitter.com/tIjK15XAAO

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) February 6, 2024

The formula for success is easy to explain but difficult to execute. The Cavaliers are at their best when they defend well, break out quickly and pass the ball around in the offensive end until they find an open shooter. With 7:00 to play Feb. 5 the Cavs were shooting 59.5 percent on 3s (22-38) and 55.8 (43-77) overall from the field. They finished the game with 36 assists on 51 baskets and turned the ball over only eight times.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff had high praise for Max Strus after the #Cavaliers hammered the Sacramento Kings, 136-110 Monday night. Strus scored 22 points, was 6 of 10 on 3s and had two steals, two assists and no turnovers. pic.twitter.com/F3GeS6hmr9

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) February 6, 2024

The scorching streak the Cavs are on began on Jan 3. They outscored their opponents by an average of 17.7 points each time they won. The only margin of victory closer than than five points in the streak was a 117-115 home win vs. San Antonio on Jan. 7.

CAVALIERS AT WIZARDS

When: 7 p.m., Feb. 7

Where: Capital One Arena

Records: Cavaliers 32-16, Wizards 9-40

TV: Bally Sports Ohio