LeBron James is not a happy camper. Nor should he be. His Cleveland Cavaliers are a ghastly 2-6 since Christmas, with four of those losses coming by at least 14 points.
Now, following two straight blowout letdowns at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves (127-99) and Toronto Raptors (133-99), the four-time MVP is fed up. And he made that clear on Thursday night, on the heels of Cleveland’s 34-point drubbing at the hands of Toronto.
From Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania:
The Cleveland Cavaliers stood in silence, LeBron James lighting into each and every one of them. James understands the process of integrating an All-Star such as Isaiah Thomas after seven months of rehab, understands the chemistry needing to be rejuvenated after Kyrie Irving was shipped out. But the lack of drive and precision against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night infuriated him in a second consecutive blowout loss. This was unfitting for a three-time defending Eastern Conference champion against a fellow contender, and so James let them all hear it.
“We all have to be held accountable,” James said later at his locker. “How hard we play. How much effort we play with. I’m trying to hold everyone accountable.”
People will invariably chalk this latest stretch up to symptoms of boredom. The Cavaliers remain Eastern Conference favorites even though they’re 6.5 games back of the first-place Boston Celtics and three games back of the second-place Raptors. And let’s not forget, they began the year 5-7, before going on an absolute tear that took them, for the most part, into that Christmas Day loss against the Golden State Warriors.
Assuming this stance is fine to some extent. The Cavaliers’ offense will eventually be okay. It just will be. The defense, though? That’s a different story.
The Cavaliers are 30th in points allowed per 100 possessions during this eight-game stretch and 29th on the season overall, in front of only the Sacramento Kings, according to NBA.com. They give up entirely too many open threes, and their transition defense is nonexistent.
Those problems won’t just suddenly go away, even with more inspired efforts. Not when the Cavaliers aren’t stocked with a wealth of good defenders. Dwyane Wade has been better than expected, and Kyle Korver always tries really hard, but LeBron James and Jae Crowder are their only two plus-defenders on the wings. And that, frankly, isn’t going to cut it when they rely on both Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Love—hence why the Cavaliers kind of, sort of, have to hope for a trade-deadline miracle.