Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, superstar forward LeBron James stated Friday night that he's still worried about the team's mental toughness heading into the stretch run of the regular season.
The Cavs suffered a 99-97 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, the second-place team in the East, on Friday. Afterward, the team's leading scorer and vocal leader made it clear he wasn't pleased with the performance, as noted by Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com.
"When you lose the way we lost, mental mistake after mental mistake, those hurt more than anything when you can play better mentally," James said. "People get so caught up on the physical side of the game. We lack mental right now, and we've got to continue to get better with it."
James tallied 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the loss. He had six of the team's 14 turnovers as well. He also had a chance to win the game in the final seconds but wildly missed an off-balance jumper at the buzzer:
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Cleveland looked completely out of sorts at times during a fourth quarter in which the Raptors outscored them 31-20 to achieve the comeback victory. James knows those are the type of games his group must close out if it is going to chase down a championship.
It's been a season of turmoil for the Cavaliers despite the strong record. They fired head coach David Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue in late January. A short time later, they held a players-only meeting in an effort to sort through any lingering issues, per ESPN.com.
Nothing has worked as well as they had hoped, though. They need to elevate their level of play and showcase more consistency to survive the East playoffs, let alone challenge one of the dominant teams from the West like the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in a potential championship series.
James discussing the situation so openly with the media should send a message. Now the question is whether it will yield the desired results for Cleveland.