The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get a lot of time to bounce back from their loss to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas, so they completely fell apart a day later in Portland with a 29-point defeat against the Portland Trail Blazers, with two more games left to play on their Western tour.
The key phrase at the moment, especially when LeBron James is talking, is ‘it’s going to take us some time’. The Cavaliers have been waiting to get healthy again all year long. For Kyrie Irving to play next to James and Kevin Love. For Iman Shumpert to be on the floor. It seemed Blatt messed a bit too much with the rotations and playing minutes in the game against the Warriors, treating it like another NBA Finals game and not just a more hyped up version of the regular season. It led to some veiled criticism from James and generally, apparent discomfort for some of the players.
Blatt needs to find a way to get everyone involved. Richard Jefferson can add things to the team. Mo Williams shouldn’t be playing just five minutes a game. The Cavaliers have a deep team they feel is good enough to win the NBA title, and certainly the East. LeBron James, like it or not, just isn’t the same player he was up to 2013 or 2014. He needs more help than before, and he needs the right lineups more than ever before, which is why his comments after the 105-76 loss in Portland had arrows directed at Blatt.
You know, it’s going to take time, because you know for the first eight weeks we had built chemistry, we knew who was playing, we knew who wasn’t playing. We had rotations, Coach Blatt had rotations down, so we got to get back to that. We have no rhythm. We have some guys who don’t know if they’re going to play, or if they are going to play and it’s hurting our rhythm a little bit.
Maybe it’s just fatigue and something of a mental let down after their loss in the Oracle Arena, with James shooting poorly and especially doing awfully from the line in the fourth quarter. But the Cavaliers have struggled when it comes to consistent basketball all season long, so when there’s an actual need to introduce returning players to the rotations and minute splits? It’s not surprising to see it him them hard, especially without any rest.
Champions aren’t crowned in December, and nine losses at this point mean one thing: The Cavaliers haven’t been playing well enough some of the time to look as dominant as some people expect them to be. The loss in Golden State should have helped them out instead of stun them or wear them out. But the Cavaliers have plenty of time to set the minutes, lineups and rotations straight. They just need to make sure they don’t develop a mini crisis because of the new uncertainty.