The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t a very good team so far this season; Kyrie Irving has been called into question, with some even saying he’s grossly overrated. But then the New York Knicks, with their depressed looks and no effort on defense, and suddenly everything is OK. Irving plays like a superstar, while the one on the other side, Carmelo Anthony, is quite close to giving up.
The Knicks, losing 109-94, are now down to 5-15. That’s not the worst record in the NBA, but no team has dropped in win percentage quite like them. Not the Nets, not the Jazz or the awful Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs? In the East, everyone can see himself as a playoff contender, and every time someone wins two consecutive games it feels like they’re on the verge of a breakthrough.
So while the Knicks were off to their 11th loss in the last 13 games, things in Cleveland were quite cheerful. Irving finishing with 37 points and 11 assists was a nice start. It seemed like any time the Cavs didn’t simply try to go one on one, instead passing the ball around or using screens to free up players, an opportunity presented itself. The Knicks allowed them to shoot at 56.8% from the field and 47.4% from beyond the arc. The Knicks weren’t speficially bad at shooting (46%) or turning the ball over (only 13). They were just in no mood or energetic form about to make this game difficult on the home team with defense.
I don’t have the answer to what we have to do. You can’t coach or you can’t teach energy. The losing is becoming unacceptable. Hopefully, everybody feels like that. I can’t be the only one who is feeling like that. This is all new to me. I’ve never been 5-15 before in my career. The only thing we can do is stay positive. If we start thinking about that, we’re going to be 5-25. It will all go downhill.
Yes, the mood isn’t quite optimistic in New York these days. No more talk about ‘we’re going to change it’ and other motivational cliches. Mike Woodson just stands around looking helpless, and his players aren’t offering any emotional support or a hint that they can do better, with an energy level that was only lifted by playing against their city rivals. Seeing a collapse of epic proportions isn’t out of the picture.
The Cavs don’t have to worry about that. Their own chemistry problems seemed to be gone, at least for one night. Jarrett Jack, who has been slightly disappointing since being a big free agency signing this summer, added 17 points off the bench, while Tristan Thompson entertained everyone with a couple of vicious dunks against the soft-as-butter Knicks defense. The Cavs are another team with quite sharp contrasts from game to game, especially when they go on the road where they are only 1-10.
Mike Brown has now won four of the last five games for the Cavs. Is this a turn around, or just a small diversion from the usual disappointment? The Cavs rely on Kyrie Irving too much, but that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed with that system anyway. But it’ll take the kind of passing and effort they showed in the win over the Knicks against much more difficult opponents in order to make this season about more than just preparing for the future.