Despite LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving all taking the floor in Oklahoma City on Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers came up short against the Thunder — and the hand-wringing commenced almost immediately.
Forget the fact that LeBron’s team had won four straight games with Kyle Korver finally looking comfortable prior to their defeat at the hands of Russell Westbrook; for many NBA observers, the sky is falling in Cleveland once more. Yet as Colin Cowherd explained on Friday’s episode of The Herd on FS1, there’s one critical stat that shows just how little the Cavs are concerned with the 2016-17 regular season.
Article continues below ...
After Thursday’s loss, Cleveland is 3-7 on the year on the second night of back-to-back games, by far the worst record for any title contender in the NBA — but those other contenders aren’t coming off of a championship season followed by bringing back the entire roster to defend their title.
Instead, the Cavs are cruising. They know they can flip a switch once the postseason comes, and they’re not going to expend their energy on back-to-back nights.
COLIN: For the record, the Cavs are 0-7 on the road of the second night of back-to-backs. What does that tell you? It tells you if they ever do give a better effort, it’s at least for their home fans. But if they’re on the road, second game of a back-to-back, as the defending champs, they haven’t won a game this year. They’re 0-7, worst in the league. They’ll play a little harder at home because it’s the home fans.
God, this is so obvious. So don’t fall in love with winning streaks. Don’t get caught up in seeding. Everything Cleveland’s doing offensively, they’re going to be fine. And they’ll also flip a switch defensively once we get to the Finals.
This is why I say Cleveland’s going to win the championship. What’s happening right now is just an effort thing. It’ll be fine in June.
Indeed, the only possible reason for concern with the Cavaliers is their defense, which currently ranks just below league-average for this season. Colin’s right not to be too concerned about that end of the court for Cleveland, however, because there’s historical precedent for this kind of letdown with a LeBron team after a championship.
In 2012-13, the Miami Heat were a below-average defensive squad into February, before they flipped a switch after the All-Star break and became the juggernaut that went on to win a second consecutive title in June. Of course, LeBron has more miles on his legs these days, and he might need to rest deep into March.
The timetable could change, but the result will probably be the same. Once the playoffs roll around, all the worrying about the Cavs will look awfully silly.