Playing without LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to keep things close but nothing more as they lost 109-101 to the Atlanta Hawks, putting more pressure on head coach David Blatt which has a never ending list of problems, which now includes Kevin Love suffering from back problems.
Kyrie Irving was back form his ankle injury to score 35 points, but that isn’t the problem. Defense (although it’s not the only thing) stands above everything else. No discipline, not enough effort and not enough players buying in to what Blatt is trying to make them do. It’s their third loss in four games, falling to 18-13 and giving up more than 100 points for the fourth time in five games. All of this isn’t making Blatt’s seat any less rockier.
The Hawks blew out the Cavaliers this month in Cleveland. Suddenly staying close with them while Kevin Love leaves the game with back problems and Irving is left to carry them on his own while Mike Miller brings the team nothing on too many nights and Dion Waiters can’t find any sort of consistency (9 points) is the best the Cavaliers can do, maybe even thankful it didn’t end in a worse way considering the conditions.
This isn’t a surprise. As of now, he Hawks are the better team. Paul Millsap with 26 points and 9 rebounds is one of the best two-way forwards in the league. Jeff Teague has turned into a star over the last season or two with 23 points and 11 assists this time, while Kyle Korver was unstoppable from beyond the arc again, hitting 5-of-8 and scoring 19 points. The 33-year old is scoring 13 points per game, making an incredible 52% of his 3-point shots while attempting 5.6 per game.
The rumors are flying from every direction about the Cavs’ front office suddenly not being too happy with Blatt, although the situation he’s in is completely different to the one he was hired into. Before James, before Love, and before all the expectations came around. Whether or not there is genuine concern about his ability to connect and influence these players, changing the direction of where things are going, it’s hard not to believe at least some of these words considering the Cavaliers are way off their expected mark, two months into the season.
Is LeBron James actually feeling regret about his decision to join the Cavaliers? Remember, both he and Kevin Love can become free agents at the end of this season. It’s hard to believe James will leave them again. For someone who cares quite a lot about what people think of him, that would be public-image suicide. Kevin Love is a different matter. But the Miami Heat were being slaughtered by the media during their first year of the big three. There’s still time to turn this around and make something special of this union. But Blatt, more than anyone else, is running out of it.