There will be ups and downs in any NBA season, but a team trying to defend its title should not be playing the way the Cleveland Cavaliers are. There have been points this season where they have looked really good, but most of those moments happened early in the season or during the month of February. This team has so much talent and experience that there is no way they should go through the terrible stretches they have or the massive lapses on defense that have now become all too common. This team should be playing with tremendous confidence and swagger.
They should be blowing teams out on a nightly basis and not ever get beat by a team resting its starters or a blow a 26-point fourth quarter lead. I know they’ve dealt with numerous injuries and other factors, but a championship team needs to be able to handle adversity and rise above it. This team seems to be crumbling on a daily basis.
This past week has been a microcosm of the season to this point. The team rode a three-game winning streak into a marquee matchup against the Celtics for the top spot in the East on Wednesday. They were missing Tristan Thompson with an injury, and they came out a beat the crap out of a team that is considered by some to be their top competition to make it back to the NBA Finals. They killed the Celtics in the middle quarters. The Cavs outrebounded them without even having one of their best post players and were able to coast to an easy victory in the 4th quarter. It was also a game where they held the Celtics to 91 points.
After that game, the Cavs looked like they had flipped the switch and were on the right track heading into the playoffs. Then the weekend came. The Cavs had a home game against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and then played them in Atlanta on Sunday. The Friday game was a disaster from the start. The Hawks were resting their starters, and the Cavs failed to take control of the game and establish a big lead. They looked terrible throughout the game and ended up losing to a mediocre team that wasn’t even playing their good players. If you thought it was just a case of them not taking the game seriously and not being able to get up for a game against inferior competition, you just had to wait until Sunday to get even more disappointed.
On Sunday, the Cavs came out moving the ball and scoring at will. They established a big lead against the Hawks’ top players and led by 26 going into the fourth quarter. They looked to be on their way to another statement win like the one they had against the Celtics. It could really be something to show the rest of the East that they are still unbeatable when they want to be, and no other team has a chance to come out of the East. Instead, Cleveland got outscored 44-18 in the 4th quarter as LeBron and Kyrie tried to play iso-ball, and the defense completely fell apart. What a disastrous way to show the rest of the East that they are vulnerable and still don’t have their stuff figured out.
Watching this team’s lack of effort and attitude of not caring has to be one of the most frustrating things I can do with my time, and I’m a die hard Cleveland fan. I watch every Browns game in the fall and rooted for the disaster that the Cavs were during LeBron’s years in Miami. I think it’s more irritating because they don’t have any legitimate excuses like those other teams. Those teams didn’t have the talent or experience required to be competitive, and I knew that going into each game. This team just seems sloppy and lazy, and Coach Lue appears to be cool with it. He repeatedly says that they just had an off night, and the team will be ready for the playoffs.
I wish Coach Lue would chew the team out and tell them to get their act together because while teams out West are looking good and fine-tuning things for the playoffs, the Cavs look like they could lose in the second round if they’re not careful. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully expect the team to be able to put it together enough to make another trip to the NBA Finals, but I hope the bad habits they are developing and their lack of caring don’t cost them a chance at another title.