The Cavaliers followed up their statement win over Boston with another weak performance against Atlanta, leaving uncertainty heading into the playoffs. They went 7-10 in March, but after a dominant 114-91 over the Celtics on their home court it looked like they had found their stride. However they followed that up with a poor performance against Atlanta on Friday night. Falling 114-100. A win would have greatly bolstered there chances at securing the top spot in the Eastern Conference and possibly given their top guys a chance to rest. Making it quite alarming that they came out disengaged from start to finish and leaving question marks about where this team is truly at just one week away from the playoffs.
The Cavs have had two stretches this season where they’ve looked awful. January and March. However what’s often over looked is that this isn’t a team playing for regular season supremacy. They’re playing for championships. And LeBron James is no longer playing to win the MVP. He’s playing to catch Michael Jordan as the best ever. With that being said, you would think considering the race for the one seed is as tight as it is, they would flick the playoff switch a little earlier.
This team has become more and more mysterious. Are they just toying with everybody? trying to get us all to buy into the fact that they’re truly struggling? It felt like the Boston win was them finally revealing that they really are the team they’ve been expected to be. However just 48 hours later there they were again, with their starters on the bench in the closing minutes with looks of dejection after another bad loss.
One reason to explain their sluggish play could be their veteran make up. Saving gas for when it really counts. They have seven players who have played at least ten years in the league.
Whether the Cavaliers are really just preserving themselves for post season play or if there really is some legit internal issues, one thing is for sure. The East is weak, and despite their issues there’s no real threat to stop them from getting to their third straight finals.
Toronto and Boston have both had stretches where they’ve looked like legit threats. The Celtics however, don’t have enough star power. Isaiah Thomas is a great player, but one star is not enough. Danny Ainge made the decision to hold onto their assets and not make a move for Paul George or Jimmy Butler. A move to protect their future? possibly. A move knowing his team still wouldn’t be good enough to get through Cleveland? Also quite possible.
Adding Serge Ibaka made the Raptors a bigger threat. He and their other acquisition PJ Tucker have made a big impact defensively. They’re now seventh in the league in points allowed. 10 spots better since acquiring the two. With that being said Kyle Lowry has just come back after missing 18 games. Which has left them still searching for an identity with little time to find one. They’re also 0-3 against Cleveland this year.
Cleveland now leads Boston by half a game for top spot in the East. The Cavaliers have a tougher finish. They’ll play in Atlanta Sunday night, then in Miami on Monday and to close it out they’ll host the Raptors Wednesday. Boston will host Brooklyn and Milwaukee to close out their regular season. Cleveland holds the tie breaker. This sets up as interesting battle for the one seed. Although questions remain about how legit the Cavs are, it’s likely they won’t really be answered until they meet the best of the West in June.