Well… that was rather embarrassing. For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers were whipped by the Golden State Warriors on MLK Day. This was a small modicum of revenge for the Warriors after being beaten by the reigning champions on Christmas Day. And while this won’t erase the bad memories of dropping their 3-1 series lead to the Cavs last June yet, it’s a start. The rivalry can be taken seriously once more.
It’s Cleveland’s turn, however, to get serious. Sure, they’ve split the season series with the Warriors. But their victory was by a hair – a single point, that required a climb from 14 points down. The Warriors win, meanwhile, was a 35-point shellacking.
What’s Causing the Slump?
That’s not even the only concern – the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost 3 of their last 4 games. 2017 hasn’t started off right, either, as the Cavs are 4-4 in the year so far. What reason could the defending champions have for such a slump?
People looking for an excuse will certainly turn to the fact that the Cavs are coming off a 6-game road trip – their longest of the season. They went 3-3 in this time, beating bottomdwellers Brooklyn, Phoenix, and Sacremento, but losing against Utah, Portland, and Golden State. But is fatigue all there is to it?
The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t simply sharing the ball as well as they’re used to, as noted by Cleveland.com. Over their road trip, they only had one game (vs the Kings) where they registered more than 15 assists. For the others, the ball movement stagnated. Against the Warriors, they only hit a paltry 11 assists (GS hit 37). As a measurement of teamwork, the Cavs are not working well as a team right now.
For all the hubbub that the Kyle Korver trade cased, he has yet to be properly integrated into Tyronn Lue’s system. That takes time. And with JR Smith out right now, the confidence – especially in each other, as teammates – could surely use a boost.
Cleveland Cavaliers Flipping the Switch
Can LeBron James and company turn things around? Well, certainly, yes they can. In fact, few people are still going to bet on any other team besides the Cavs to emerge as Eastern Conference Champion. The team is going to collect themselves at home. They’ll get back into the groove of proper ball movement, hit their stride with their shots.
But in the blowout loss to the Warriors, the Cavaliers showed complacency, maybe even overconfidence. “Flipping the switch” in the Playoffs isn’t a guaranteed thing. For all their talents, the Cavs aren’t going to move from regular season mode to Playoffs mode by pushing some magical button. They need to reassess their game plan, figure out what mental obstacle needs hurdling.
Tyronn Lue already took the first step there, admitting their lapse after the Golden State game. “They played well, they beat us,” he said. “Right now we gotta go home and regroup.”