It's no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers struggled throughout the month of March. The team finished with a 7-10 record and lost five of seven games during a stretch of mostly road games. With this losing skid the Boston Celtics took over first place in the Eastern conference, which has some Cleveland fans panicking.
If you are one of those fans panicking, stop, take a deep breath, and relax. R-E-L-A-X, like the great Aaron Rodgers once said during a Green Bay Packers losing streak.
Despite the struggles, the Cavaliers have not shown very many signs of panicking. In the win on Friday night over the Philadelphia 76ers, Kyrie Irving received his first career flagrant foul defending LeBron James after he was pushed from behind by Justin Anderson.
It's always nice to see teammates having each other's back. There are other ways to demonstrate support for your fellow teammates than picking up flagrant fouls, but that play really got the team going. Cleveland took their frustrations out on the 76ers with a 122-105 win.
While I believe the Cavaliers will be fine in the long run, there are some reasons to be unhappy with the team's performance. Losing 5 of the last 7 games shouldn't be taken lightly, there are clear problems with this team. But they are mostly minor problems that can be fixed rather quickly.
One problem is injuries, and this really can't be avoided. At this point of the season, everyone is a little banged up. JR Smith and Kevin Love were out for a period of time, and now Kyle Korver is injured. This team hasn't been 100% healthy in a long time.
With the injury problems, that affects head coach Tyronn Lue and the entire coaching staff's game-plan heading into games. Every night someone either has a nagging injury or is resting *cough* LeBron *cough*.
Limited practice time is also a problem. During the playoffs there can be several days between games which allows for more practice/preparation for opponents. It also gives the several new players to get more familiar with the team's schemes, such as Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, and Deron Williams. Larry Sanders is spending a lot of time with the Canton Charge to get more minutes.
As mentioned before, in the playoffs there are more days off which means more practice time. More practice time means better execution of plays in the game, leading to more wins.
Cleveland has problems on the defense side of the floor too. They have given up over 100 points in 14 of the last 17 games with a 7-10 record during that stretch. While there might be some issues with defensive schemes/execution, some of the problem has to do with effort. Kevin Love talked about this on a recent episode of the Vertical podcast with Chris Mannix.
"Defensively, when we decide we want to be good or want to be great or want to be one of the better teams, we can be that,” said Kevin Love. "We will right the ship, we always do."
LeBron doesn't seem too worried either:
It's nice to see that LeBron, Love, and the rest of the Cavaliers aren't panicking and have confidence in themselves. But at the same time, they are in danger of losing home-court advantage in the Eastern conference playoffs. While that might seem like a big deal, it doesn't really matter to LeBron James-led teams.
Here is a fun fact: In 5 of LeBron's 7 NBA Finals appearances, his team was the 2nd playoff seed in the East. The two times his team was a 1 seed and won the Finals was last year's Cavalier team, and the 2012-2013 Miami Heat.
Since returning to Cleveland, James and the Cavaliers have only lost four playoff games in the Eastern conference. The Eastern conference finals with the Raptors went six games, and the semifinal series with the Chicago Bulls in 2015 went six games. Cleveland has swept every other series leading up to the NBA Finals.
There isn't any reason to doubt a LeBron James-led team. He has been to the Finals six consecutive seasons and Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East. It's hard to see Boston or Washington beating Cleveland four times in a seven game series with a healthy LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
At the end of the day, LeBron James is still the best player in the world, and has been for the last decade. Kyrie Irving is one of the best scorers in the world. Cleveland will arguably have the two best players on the floor against any Eastern conference opponent. No disrespect to John Wall and Isaiah Thomas.
In conclusion, it's time to R-E-L-A-X. Yes the Cavaliers are hard to watch right now, but once it gets to be playoff time, they will flip the switch. Save the link to this article and revisit it when it's June and the Cleveland Cavaliers are once again playing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.