CLEVELAND--The Cavaliers are the defending NBA Champions, but in recent games they have not done much defending.
With just nine games to play in the regular season, the Cavaliers need to get back to playing much better defense if they want to have any chance to get back to the NBA Finals--let alone defend their title.
The question is it just disinterest in the regular season or have the Cavs become complacent by winning their first title last season?
With the offensive firepower the Cavs have, they should be able to put up enough points on a regular basis to win, but they cannot just think they will out score their opponents on a nightly basis. Led by the 'Big 3' the Cavs should be able to get 60-70 points consistently from that trio with the rest coming from J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Channing Frye among others.
Comparing last year's roster, it is hard to see a drop off in talent. The Cavaliers primarily lost Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov from last year's title run. This year, they've added Korver and Deron Williams primarily to the rotation. Dellavedova is the biggest loss as Mozgov rarely played in the playoffs, but Dellavedova wasn't much of a factor down the stretch in the title run, either.
Korver and Williams have been all-stars and although don't play as tenacious defense as Dellavedova did, they both can more than make up for it on the offensive end. Even lower in the rotation, Derrick Williams is stronger than Jordan McRae, as well. Larry Sanders might not even be able to contribute this year, but defensively his presence cannot be much less than Mozgov's was.
The Cavs were humiliated by the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night and consequently fell out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since last November. The Celtics lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night to vault the idle Cavs back into the top spot by percentage points, .644 to .640.
The Cavs have a chance to regain control of the top seed and build on their lead in Chicago Thursday night. If not, they would fall back into second place with a loss to a team that they've lost to three times already this season. The Cavs are just one game over .500 on the road this season, thus a strong statement could be made for the importance of have home court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
If the Cavs want to try and defend their title, they are going to have to start putting the 'defend' back in 'defending' as the playoffs draw near.