Saturday 24 March 2018 / 11:43 AM


Seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers go down to the Indiana Pacers away on Wednesday night raised a couple of questions.

The Pacers are a team that the Cavaliers should easily be able to blow out, but there were two things that stopped that from happening. The first is that the Cavs are the team to beat. Every team in the East is eyeing Cleveland like the brand-new punching bag at the gym, and that’s effectively what the champs want to avoid becoming.

It’s only the first couple games of the season, and each team they’ve faced has tried to play like it’s a playoff game. Why? Taking down the Cavaliers is enough to energize a team and have the fans and players thinking, “Hey, maybe we’ve got a fighting shot at playoff time.”

Sure, Golden State might be the super team to beat because of KD’s arrival and the media attention, but when it comes down to brass tacks, the Cavaliers are the current champions and dominate the East by a larger margin than the Warriors dominate the West.

But of course, the Cavaliers don’t have any incentive to really try as hard or risk injury against the teams clawing for a victory. Sure, basketball is basketball and they play to win, but playing to win a game is different than playing to win a championship. The biggest margin they’ve had so far is an 11-point win over the Washington Wizards. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the Cavaliers could be winning each game thus far by a 30-point margin.

So the question I raise is, when will the Cavaliers start trying? They’ve obviously become a team that relies on LeBron, but this isn’t the Miami Heat showboat LeBron I remember. This is the ‘wait until the playoffs’ LeBron. I can see the Cavaliers coming in at 90% of their playoff game against the Warriors on Christmas Day, but nothing spectacular until then.

Also, LeBron sat out Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers for rest. He’s the king, and king does what he wants, I get it. But seeing the Cavaliers play such a bad game without him was disheartening. Part of what makes LeBron so great is that he very rarely gets injured or misses crucial games. But that raises the question, what if?

If you can’t tell by now, my favorite LeBron was the Miami Heat LeBron – not only because I’m a Heat fan, but because of the way he played with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. If either of the trio was slacking, the other two would explode to make up for them. As clutch as Kyrie Irving is and as great Kevin Love used to be, I haven’t seen the same dynamic on the Cavs.

Kevin Love scored 27 with 16 rebounds, somewhat on par with what Chris Bosh used to produce. Kyrie Irving put up 24 points with 7 assists, but as much as I love Kyrie, he’s not D-Wade. Although to be fair, Irving has the potential to be one of the best point guards ever to play in the NBA.

The Cavaliers chose to rotate their bench for a good portion of the game in Indiana, which is good to give them some experience. Frye, Liggins and McRae played for 27, 27, and 24 minutes respectively, but only combined for 21 points.

Contrast the Cavaliers to the Warriors. If Steph is out, Durant is going to do work. If Steph and Durant are out, Klay and Draymond are capable of filling in the gaps. I would even expect Iggy to put up 20+ points.

Granted, the Warriors and Cavaliers are going to be playing at an entirely different level come playoff time, but the sudden drop in pointscoring production with LeBron out is concerning.

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About the author

Alex Moskov

Alex has come on board with CBS as our basketball and gridiron expert, providing opinions and analysis from the bright lights of the NBA and NFL.

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