Roughly seven games into the 2017-18 NBA season, three teams are tied for the league’s best record.
Neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor Golden State Warriors is one of them.
Few would have guessed both NBA Finals participants would be hovering so close to .500, even this early. The Warriors in particular seem talented enough to sleepwalk their way toward 70 victories.
Instead, they have struggled, just like the Cavaliers, only not as much. They’ve suffered bad losses to the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies, and more notably, their usually stingy defense ranks 26th in points allowed per 100 possessions.
None of which surprises head coach Steve Kerr. That goes for the Cavaliers’ slow start, too. These two teams have played into the NBA Finals each of the past three years. Fatigue and onset disinterest, he says, are inevitable, per the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds:
“It’s not easy,” Kerr said. “I think that’s the hardest thing probably for people to understand, fans, media, whoever — whomever, my mom would want me to say — is the fatigue, the emotional and spiritual fatigue that sets in when you’ve been going to The Finals. That’s why LeBron going to The Finals seven years in a row, to me, is one of the most amazing accomplishments ever for a player in this league.”
No one is really worried about the Warriors, who sport an NBA-best offense by a wide margin and are tied with the Orlando Magic(!) for the Association’s top net rating. The same kind of goes for the Cavaliers. Yes, they’ve already needed a team meeting, but they play in the East and have LeBron James. They’re going to be fine.
Panic should only start to kind of, sort of set in if both teams underwhelm into the New Year. Only then can we start envisioning scenarios in which they don’t meet up for a fourth straight Finals bout.
For now, their returns to June’s big show still profiles as relative formalities.