At this point in the season, it really doesn’t make sense to get overly emotional when the Cleveland Cavaliers lay an egg on the court.
Is it frustrating to see one of the popular picks to win a title get shellacked as it did last night against the Miami Heat, or get run off the court by what was essentially the Memphis Grizzlies’ JV team a couple weeks ago? Absolutely. This team hasn’t consistently looked like a contender all season long, and these and other pathetic losses have gotten old.
Still, it’s been Cleveland’s M.O. all year. Win a few games, start to look like everything’s coming together, then get boat-raced by a team that shouldn’t even still be in the game by halftime. Honestly, there’s really no point in acting shocked about it anymore.
However, there’s a difference between making peace with a bad loss every fourth or fifth game and ignoring the problems the Cavs continue to display. The issues with this team are still in need of some serious work, and Cleveland is running low on time to take care of them.
There are still a vast majority of fans who’ve carried the same mindset throughout this uneven season. The “quit worrying, they’ll figure it out in the postseason” mentality has remained even through the Cavs’ most embarrassing losses. The team looked hapless early on last year, yet they still managed to get within two victories of a championship. Why is it so hard to believe it all can’t happen again?
Those people are clearly ignoring a lot.
For one, the idea Cleveland just casually stumbled into the postseason last year right before its Finals run is wholly inaccurate. Yes, the Cavs looked beyond disjointed all the way up until that January. However, they established significant momentum from that point on, locking down defensively and looking like a completely different team.
This process took three months. There was no immediate switch from chaotic mess to championship contender. It took time, effort and a significant shift to focusing on defense.
Those who’ve watched this year’s team know no such momentum has been built yet.
Instead, we’ve seen the Cavs decimate upper-tier teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers, then follow it up with a game where the box score indicates only four players actually showed up.
We’ve seen the defense get picked apart, with another prime example on display in last night’s loss to the Heat. Three quarters into the game, Miami was shooting 61 percent while Cleveland decided the contest was too far out of hand to actually play starters anymore.
If this was taking place in January, it’d be a little less concerning. There’d be enough time for everyone to regroup and realign, just as they did last year.
That’s not the case this time around. There are 13 games left in the season, and the same problems which appeared to be plaguing Cleveland in the first half of the year haven’t decreased in the slightest.
The defense is still inconsistent and messy. You can tell about 10 minutes into every game whether the Cavs are playing with defensive intensity or if they’re already relegated to just let the opponent walk all over them.
The players still can’t stick with a game-plan. A quickened pace and ball movement have proven successful time and time again, but LeBron James and especially Kyrie Irving are still guilty of shifting to the much-maligned iso-ball way too quickly in moments of panic.
The team, in general, still seems mentally soft. There’s no fight, no toughness, none of the factors which helped Cleveland grind its way deep into the playoffs last year. Instead we see a team which looks as if the slightest bit of adversity sends it off the deep end.
Again, if there were still a handful of months left to go before the playoffs, there’d be no need to sound the alarm. Unfortunately, the “it’s early” and “there’s still time” excuses have long since expired. The postseason will be here before you know it and, frankly, the Cavs don’t look ready.
As mentioned, there’s no sense assuming they’ll just flip a switch and start dominating. Such a thing didn’t take place last year, so don’t expect it to happen this time around.