For the first 24 minutes Thursday night LeBron James had been brilliant, the Cavaliers as a team hit 5-of-11 from three, their maligned defense held the Bulls to 34 percent shooting, and Cleveland was up by 9.
Then in the second half, the Cavaliers returned to playing like the worst defensive team in the NBA hin the month of March — which they are — and watched Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic go off. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers offense stumbled. The result was a come-from-behind Bulls win.
Cleveland has lost three straight, they are 6-10 in March, and now trail Boston for the top seed in the East. There’s a lot of questions around the Cavaliers, and LeBron himself has some of them. He expressed his concern after the game to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
“We’re just in a bad spot right now. Not disappointed with the effort. We’re just in a bad spot,” James said following the Cavs’ fifth loss in the past seven games. “We’re going to try to figure it out. … I think the effort was there. I just don’t think the concentration for as close to 48 minutes is there yet. Which is unfortunate.”
To a man, the Cavaliers say they will be okay. There certainly has been a malaise over the team, some of those losses stem from a lack of effort, and the team is finding that tougher to shake off then they thought it would be.
The defensive struggles are concerning, but unless it carries over for a full round of the playoffs it’s hard to think Cleveland will not turn it around — this is the same core group that won the NBA title last year playing good defense, and the Cavs remain the most talented team in the East. Flipping the switch has not been as simple as some Cavaliers seemed to think, but you get the feeling they will get the light to go on soon.