The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James are comparing themselves to the Golden State Warriors, which is the main reason they seem so frustrated with their own start and specifically back to back losses. But they’re probably making too much of the 104-99 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Both James and head coach David Blatt talked about the need to be meaner, tougher and hungrier after the loss, which saw the Cavs drop a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and getting outscored 16-7 in the final 4:37 of the game. After making a free throw to put the Cavs up by four points, James took just two more shots while turning the ball over twice and scoring two points. His defense wasn’t up to par as well. This isn’t some criticism of his clutch abilities or something. He had a good game with 30 points on 11-of-21, but as a team, the Cavs simply made too many mistakes in the final minutes.
The Cavaliers are playing without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. Have been since the beginning of the season, and while they’ve done well without them, much better than their start to last season, there are going to be games when Irving’s scoring ability and Shumpert’s 3&D role are going to be missed. The Cavaliers shot just 7-of-19 from the field in the final quarter, looking stuck offensively on too many possessions, making it quite easy for the Pistons, who locked things up with six Reggie Jackson free throws in the final 21 seconds.
Maybe the most disappointing factor was the bench. The entire lineup for the Cavaliers scored in double figures, including 19 for Kevin Love, 15 for Mo Williams, 15 for J.R. Smith. The bench? A combined 10 points on 23.5% from the field shooting. Tristan Thompson grabbed nine rebounds in the game but only one of them on offense. Andre Drummond made sure the Cavaliers couldn’t get near the boards with 18 rebounds of his own, including five offensively. The Cavs had just 3 offensive rebounds.
James compared the Cavs to the hunger and success of the Warriors and makes it seem like it’s unfathomable that the champions are much hungrier than they are at this moment. But it’s not about hunger. The Warriors are simply a better team at the current constellation, with the Cavaliers missing two key players since the season began. Maybe even with them they’re better, not to mention their start is unique on an all-time level, not just for this season and in the comparison between the teams.
The Cavaliers are offering the mental approach and complacency reasons for their 3-3 start on the road, or going 1-3 in the Central division. However, it just might that their basketball right now isn’t good and consistent enough to break away far enough from the competition, and won’t be until they’re playing with a fully healthy lineup again, which means that they’re going to have more than one more frustrating night ahead of them.