The Cleveland Cavaliers are 5-6 on the young season after the Toronto Raptors came to the Q and easily handled them on Saturday night. The Cavs offense has slipped to middle of the NBA pack and Kevin Love is frustrated, but that’s not even the end of the court that’s the real problem — their 25th ranked defense is the real issue.
These are problems the Cavaliers should sort out, eventually. It feels like we saw this movie in Miami (they started 9-8), although that Heat team didn’t show this level of lethargy on defense, and it did show more flashes of promise than we have seen from these Cavs.
How to describe these Cavaliers? LeBron James used the word “fragile” Sunday after Toronto looked flat out superior, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN. And it’s going to get worse, he added.
“We’re a very fragile team right now,” James said after Cleveland saw an 18-point first-quarter lead turn into a 19-point fourth-quarter hole against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors (11-2). “Well, we were a fragile team from the beginning. Any little adversity hits us, we just shell up. That’s something that will come with experience….
“This is not even the lowest it’s going to get for us,” James said. “You guys know, the lowest it can get is up 17 in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Finals and losing. It can get that low. Or being up 2-1 and going to Game 4 and lose three straight in the Finals. That’s very low. So, I’m very optimistic. I’m very positive. More positive than I thought I would be right now, so, we look at what we did wrong, things that we did well and get ready for Orlando coming in on Monday.”
What they do wrong is a real lack of cohesion on offense where young players such as Kyrie Irving will dribble and dribble, pounding the rock and making the offense sticky. Or Tristan Thompson will outright break out of the offense for his own look. Plus the Cavaliers are just sloppy with the ball and it leads to turnovers. The Cavaliers bench has been unimpressive. And on defense, James needs to start leading by example because while there are holes on that side of the court — the Cavs lack a real rim protector — it doesn’t excuse their lazy, sloppy efforts.
All of this is fixable. And I expect that by Christmas the Cavaliers will look better, by the All-Star break they will be closer to what we expected. But there is a lot of work, a lot of maturing for this team still to do.
And the process is not going to be pretty.