It’s a rough debut season for David Blatt in the NBA as his Cleveland Cavaliers lose for a third straight time, this time 91-78 to the Washington Wizards with LeBron James and Kevin Love looking especially offense on a team that suddenly can’t get anything to function for them, which might be causing some rifts between the stars and their head coach.
If early in the season, as the Cavs opened 1-3 and later improved on that, the defense was the big problem, suddenly their offense, especially in half court, tends to be more of an issue. The ball isn’t moving, players are taking shots from too far away, and the Cavaliers look like a group that’s not that interested in giving it their all in order to get out of the bad start they’ve set up for themselves. Shooting 36% from the field and turning the ball over 19 times? It doesn’t get much worse than that.
The Wizards made plenty of mistakes themselves, turning the ball over 17 times, but there’s a lot more order, not to mention passion, in how they’re playing right now, posting an 8-3 record, second best in the East. John Wall found it quite easy to win his one-on-one duel with Kyrie Irving and make it very easy for the Wizards to reach the paint and score easy baskets. He finished with 28 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. The next top scorers were Kevin Seraphin and Bradley Beal, each scoring 12 points.
The Cavaliers entered the final quarter behind by 15 points. They did manage to hold the Wizards to only 11, but scored 13 themselves. The half court offense especially stalled, as James and Love finished with a combined 0-8 for the field in half court sets during the second half. In general, the Cavaliers hit just 29.4% of their shots when in half court offense, while doing very well in transition, something they might be doing better than anyone in the league – 72.7% while scoring 1.4 points per possession.
James finished with 22 points on 8-of-21 from the field. He was held to 1-of-8 from the field when Paul Pierce was guarding him, all of his shots coming from 20 feet or further. It’s hard to say about LeBron James that he was lazy, but it did feel like the lack of energy from him made its way to the rest of the team. Walking up and down the court instead of running, or the frowns he made when players like Dion Waiters (2 points on 1-of-7 from the field) took bad shots. It’s the fourth time this season James has shot under 40% from the field. Over the last three years with Miami, he had a total of 14 games like that.
No one is doing more badly than Kevin Love, scoring 8 points and averaging 12.7 points per game in this three-game losing streak. There are a lot of reasons to Love’s decline, and it isn’t just because he’s playing next to James and Irving (also scoring 22). He’s not getting the ball where he likes, with his touches on the elbow dropping from 11.6 per game to 4.9, which also hurts his ability to show his passing ability.
He’s taking almost half of his shots from beyond the arc, obviously hurting his efficiency, turning him into a stretch 4, which takes away from the Cavaliers ability to score in the paint, not to mention losing someone who is an excellent offensive rebounder, grabbing only 1.9 per game this season, half his career average. He hasn’t been able to help out on defense around the rim, which is less of a surprise, with the Cavaliers allowing teams to score on 65.8% from five feet, the worst rim-protection number in the league.
Right now, something, well a lot of things, aren’t working for the Cavaliers. The big question is whether this is just a period of adjustment that will pass and they’ll get over at some time, or is there really something bad going on between James, other players and their head coach, who doesn’t seem to be doing the greatest of jobs so far.