The win solidified the Cavs’ grip on the two seed in the Eastern Conference. It also put more distance between Cleveland and the Bulls in terms of the Central Division standings. Additionally, the Cavs’ victory was their 18th straight win at Quicken Loans Arena, thus continuing to prove the team would be very difficult to beat on their home court come playoff time.
However, despite Cleveland netting their 50th win of the season, despite taking down a formidable foe, and despite all the circus shots the Cavs made yesterday, one player wasn’t exactly in a celebratory mood afterwards. LeBron James, though not angry, seemed to be upset with how his team finished down the stretch.
“We got out of attack mode,” James said, specifically referring to the fourth quarter. “We’ve been playing some really good ball. We still make some young-team mistakes and hopefully we can get past those pretty soon.”
“We’re a championship contender, but we’re not there yet.”
Anyone who watched yesterday’s contest couldn’t have been too shocked about James being a little perturbed. When he was called back into the game with a little over four minutes remaining, he appeared visibly annoyed, definitely not looking like someone psyched with what he was seeing.
Now, many have taken James to task for poor body language and attitude numerous times this season, myself included. Much of it occurred during the first half of the year, when the Cavs were underachieving and playing matador defense every night. At the same time, there was reason to take issue with James – the self-appointed leader of the team – looking as though he wanted nothing to do with being on the court.
However, things were different this time around. In fact, not only do I not think there should be a problem with James’ post-game comments, I think everything he said was absolutely right.
Granted, his comments about slipping out of attack mode weren’t exactly scathing. No specific teammates were taken to task, nor did James try too hard to put a damper on a quality win.
At the end of the day, though, what he told reporters needed to be said. The Cavs had multiple chances to truly ice the game yesterday, but it appeared they shifted into cruise control. When they should’ve been going for Chicago’s throat, they instead got sloppy with the basketball, while also choosing to try and jack up more and more threes instead of driving to the basket.
Not only did James need to note that coasting at this time of the year isn’t acceptable, he also needed to make sure his younger teammates don’t get too cocky.
As we all know, Cleveland has been on a tear since mid-January, trading slumping and unwatchable basketball for some extremely dominant play. It’s important to note, though, some of the key players on this team have yet to experience this type of winning. Both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, arguably the Cavs’ next best players after James, have yet to record one minute of playing time in the postseason.
Obviously, when you have significant members of the team who aren’t as familiar with NBA success as James is, there’s always a chance they get a little too overconfident. Like yesterday, there may be moments where it’s assumed a win is in the bag and, as a result, the foot is taken off the gas.
James needed to remind everyone that, even though many around the league see Cleveland as a true title contender, they’ve accomplished nothing but a playoff berth right now. Yes, they’ve strung together plenty more wins than they have losses, but it’ll all mean nothing if the team gets bounced early from the postseason.
Some may see James as a bit of a grump yesterday during and after the game, but his comments were a necessity. At the start of the season, this team’s goal was to win a championship for a city which hasn’t seen one in over 50 years. A late-season win over the Bulls doesn’t come close to accomplishing said objective.
What James said after the game was important, as it solidifies the fact this team can’t win any titles during the regular season. It also hammered home the fact that you can never just assume the opponent is down for the count and start cruising to the finish, especially not at this time of the year.
At the end of the day, James was right. This team does have a chance to win it all, but they still aren’t quite there yet. Whether or not they live up to their hype is fully dependent on the rest of the players heeding the words of someone who’s already been down this road before.