I didn’t have a chance to watch the Cavs game last night, and I think it was a good thing.
I saw the score at halftime (49-33) and thought, “Well, here comes another walloping from the Pistons.”
In the past five years—the “LeBron Era”, if you will—Cleveland has lost to Detroit in the regular season by 35 points, 23, 20, 18, 16 and 12 (four times). Overall, Cleveland is 7-12 in the past five years against Detroit in the regular season, and have been certifiably killed in nine of those contests.
Last night’s debacle featured subpar performances from LeBron and Z, who combined to score 24 points on just 9-of-33 shooting. LeBron had five turnovers, just five assists and four rebounds in arguably his worst game of the season.
But I don’t understand what it is about playing Detroit that, frankly, makes the Cavs intimidated or scared. By all accounts of last night’s game, we were physically pushed around and played soft.
That’s inexcusable, inexplicable, and any other “inex” word that you can think to insert there. I honestly thought that our days of being bossed around by the Pistons ended in Game Six of last year's Conference finals, when LeBron said enough was enough and dismantled the entire Pistons' starting five himself. I bought into the national hype that Detroit’s days atop the division were done and that LeBron and Co. were the new sheriffs in town.
Clearly, that is not the case, as the Cavs trail Detroit by 12 games in the standings. Even with LeBron missing six and a half games, we’d still be—best case scenario—six games behind Detroit with nine to play.
(Last year, we were three games behind Detroit in the final standings. Hardly an improvement, if you ask me.)
Look, I know how meaningless the regular season is. Heck, the Cavs clinched a playoff spot anyway last night with Phoenix’s victory over New Jersey. But the Cavs are just a game and a half up on Washington for the fourth spot, and are three games from dropping into seventh, which would mean a first round matchup with, you got it, the Pistons.
The only positive from last night is that Daniel Gibson played 20 minutes in his first game back. But it sounded like he played extremely tentatively, and on top of that, Ben Wallace left the game in the third and Delonte West didn’t play due to an ankle injury.
The Cavs locker room continues to resemble an ER ward, and at the worst possible time.
If West and Gibson are healthy (at the same time), I think Sasha Pavlovic should get yanked out of the rotation. He’s a shooting guard who can’t shoot, hitting just 36 percent of his shots from the floor and 30 percent from 3-point range. Last year, he made 45 percent of his shots and 40 percent from beyond the arc. He is my winner of the Least Improved Player of the Year Award—especially considering that, for whatever reason, he’s playing more minutes this year than last year!
(I don’t know what he did during his holdout, but clearly it did not involve shooting a basketball.)
The Cavs are back in action tonight against the red-hot Sixers, who are 19-6 in their past 25 games (Cleveland, by the way, holds a robust record of 13-12 in its last 25 games.)
Cleveland needs to get some swagger back, and soon, or else a repeat trip to the Finals, which was already questionable, is in serious jeopardy.