Saturday afternoon can't get here soon enough.
For me, for you, for everyone on the North Coast, and for the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's playoff time.
Time to get serious. Shift to another gear. Step it up. Flip the switch. Whatever overused cliche you wish to apply here.
Because I don't know about you, but the last few months of the regular season felt like an endless trip to the dentist. Constantly painful.
On January 8th, the Wine and Gold hit their high water mark of the season at 28-8. Then suddenly, the drama kicked in. Let's review some of the low points, shall we?
- To be fair, J.R. Smith was already sidelined by that point because of a fractured thumb he suffered in December. His absence was certainly notable.
- Kevin Love was banged up for most of January, then underwent knee surgery on February 14 and was out for a month.
- Iman Shumpert was plagued by ankle and shoulder injuries and never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm.
- After a loss to the Hornets on January 24th despite 49 points from Kyrie Irving, 26 points by LeBron James, and 22 from Love, James goes on an expletive-filled, postgame rant. It was highlighted by remarks like, ""We need a f---ing playmaker. I'm not saying you can just go find one like you can go outside and see trees. I didn't say that." James' remarks and subsequent remarks on Twitter forced Cavs GM David Griffin to respond two days later in a somewhat tense press conference.
- Griffin did respond with actions as well as he dealt for Kyle Korver, then added Derrick WIlliams, Deron Williams, and Andrew Bogut in a series of shrewd moves around the NBA's trading deadline. Bogut would play one minute for the Cavs before suffering a fractured tibia and being waived.
- The Cavaliers were blown out in several 'marquee' matchups against top teams, including a 35-point loss to Golden State, a 29-point demolition at the hands of the Spurs. They were also swept by the Chicago Bulls!
- The Cavs were just 7-10 in March, with 12 of those 17 games on the road.
- April began with a double OT win over the Pacers (the same team the Cavs will be facing in the first round of the playoffs), but a on-court argument between James and Tristan Thompson seemed to fester to the locker room as several players bolted before the media could talk to them.
- Then just when the Cavaliers seemed to have home court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs locked up after a dominating victory over the Celtics, the team lost their last four games. That included back-to-back setbacks to Atlanta highlighted by the defending champs blowing a 26 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Look, I completely understand and agree with the argument that the Cavs struggled this year because of injuries. It's absolutely valid. Did you know there were 24 different players on the roster this season?
But when I went back to research some of these not-so-memorable moments, there were some eye-raising common denominators in things that the Cavs players said during postgame press conferences:
- "We're just not playing good basketball right now. We've got to figure it out."
- "The energy level was just real bad, I don't know why."
- "I didn't think our physicality was where it needed to be the way how well they moved bodies and moved the ball. They beat us pretty good."
- "We were playing uninspired basketball on both ends. It's definitely not a good thing when you play that style or that way this late in the season."
Those were things that were said MULTIPLE times by players and Head Coach Ty Lue. And that's the stuff that has me a little concerned as we start the playoffs on Saturday against Indiana.
Call it boredom, fatigue, championship hangover, whatever.
But with all of that said...with everything that has gone wrong on the Good Ship Cavaliers, none of it will matter as long as they start winning NOW.
It's time for the all of the excuses about injuries, rest, energy level, focus, and uninspired play to end.
Just in case you think I'm being an alarmist, read some of the pointed comments that Griffin made prior to Wednesday's regular season finale. “I think we’ve treated the regular season where we’re going to flip a switch. Most of that brought on by injuries and changes in lineups, but I think some of that is we tend to think we’re better than we are at times," Griffin began.
"You’ve seen we have the capability in the regular season to be very, very good when we’re all connected and dedicated to the same thing," he continued. "This team is much more comfortable with its back against the wall and when everyone says we can’t do it. I’m really optimistic that we have the right people in the room that will react to adversity the way they always have."
If that's the case, then you can erase everything that happened to the Cavaliers before Saturday.
If that's the case, strap yourselves in for a fun couple of months that could very well culminate in another parade here in Cleveland.