CLEVELAND — It’s officially the midpoint of the NBA season and the Cavaliers look well on their way to remaining the biggest beasts in all the East.
Outside of that, we’ve only learned they still have some work to do.
While nobody is saying the Cavaliers’ 34-point home loss to the Warriors is a season-ender or even a true indication of how far apart the teams truly are — it did throw up a couple of red flags.
And if not red flags, a couple of yield signs that have caused the Cavs to look, listen, learn and figure out what went wrong, and work to avoid it ever happening again.
Mostly, the Cavs still believe they have immense talent. They proved as much in the second half of last season. When LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were healthy, and the Cavs finally had some time to come together, they cruised.
Honest. In the second half of last season, the Cavs tore through the league as easily as the Warriors are doing now.
But the postseason injuries (to Irving and Love) came, and so did the Cavs’ need to develop chemistry all over again.
It wasn’t as big of an adjustment as last season, mind you. This is their second year under David Blatt and the rest of the coaching staff — and Blatt’s second year coaching a veteran NBA team with real star power.
The adjustments have come in other forms.
Irving returned after missing the first 24 games with the same knee surgery that felled him in the Finals. Then the Cavs had to figure out how to get the best out of their Big Three (and the important pieces around them) all over again.
Against the likes of the Nuggets or Magic or even Mavericks, hey, it’s gone great. Against the Warriors and Spurs? Well, not nearly as much.
Fortunately, the Cavs won’t have to go through both of those teams to return to the Finals. Actually, to return they will need to get through neither. The Warriors and Spurs will be left to battle it out with the Clippers, Thunder, maybe Rockets and maybe each other, out West.
All of that, of course, is of no concern to the Cavs. Their focus is always placed squarely on themselves.
When their offense is flowing, their jumpers are falling and their defense determined, they have a pretty strong argument that they can beat the best. Anywhere, anytime in one game or sevem.
But they have to make sure those things happen — they won’t just happen on their own. Nor will they happen just because the Cavs appear deep and talented and well-coached.
If they’ve learned anything from the Warriors and Spurs, it should be that those teams space the floor, share the ball and stick with their stuff even when it’s not working perfectly.
No one on either of those teams tries to take over games. Instead, whenever someone has a big individual night, it’s because he played off his teammates, again, within the flow of the offense.
None of this is to say the Cavs need to be overly worried about where they are in comparison to the Warriors and Spurs or anyone else. Not yet. Nobody in league history has been crowned champion in January.
Still, this is a time to figure out — or at least begin to figure out — how to rediscover the magic that was the second half of last season. The Cavs were there before and they can get there again.
And guess what? That chance is now. The second half has arrived.