The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t let the humiliation against the defending NBA champions keep them down for long, and suddenly, no one is calling out LeBron James for selfishness or telling Kevin Love he needs to be traded.
Winning is the best medicine. The Cavaliers bounced back from losing by 34 points at home to the Golden State Warriors by beating the Brooklyn Nets 91-78 on the road, making it nine consecutive wins against Eastern conference teams, not losing to one since December 5 against the Miami Heat. The Cavs are 20-6 this season when playing teams from the East, opposed to 9-5, including two losses against Golden State and another against the San Antonio Spurs, when playing Western conference teams.
Kevin Love, who seemed to be a popular choice for getting blamed not just on that loss but on the whole set of problems the Cavaliers have against the better teams in the league, finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds in only 31 minutes. Yes, it remains an issue for him that he’s playing from the corner and not the middle of the floor like James and Kyrie Irving, but there are more problems for Cleveland in their matchup against Golden State than just Love, and maybe there are things that can be done to fix those issues.
James scored 17 points while adding 5 assists in a calm game for him. The talk about his problems following the loss to the Warriors focused on how he’s hurting the flow for the Cavaliers by taking up too much of the ball, not moving it and swinging it to open players quickly enough, and basically playing like he did in the NBA Finals when there’s really no need for it. Yes, James doesn’t always make the best decisions when it comes to his involvement and how he gets involved, but throwing him under the bus doesn’t make much sense.
And then there’s David Blatt, who once again was put at the front of all the blame game, saying he doesn’t control James and has no business coaching an NBA team. We don’t know exactly what goes on during timeouts and in practices. How much James does on his own accord and how much Blatt decides, but it won’t be the first time an NBA star works by his own set or rules with only small tips from the head coach. Blatt, like the entire team, simply didn’t show up to the loss against the Warriors. But maybe it’s a little bit too soon to panic.
The loss against Golden State was a slap to the face. After close losses in Golden State and San Antonio, the Cavaliers felt as if they’re right behind the two teams with the best record in the NBA. But turns out they’re still quite far behind whatever it is the Western conference brings out to the NBA finals. The Cavaliers seem to have the Eastern conference owned, but from now until the trade deadline, they’ll have to figure out whether their issues are fixable and how – by internal changes or making a trade to keep their championship hopes alive.