J.R. Smith Comments on Cavaliers' Energy, State of the Team After Wizards Loss

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2016

Feb 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) sits on the bench against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Cleveland 99-97. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 41-17 Cleveland Cavaliers hold the No. 1 seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference, but after their third loss in four games, the lead is dwindling. One of their players thinks that's a major concern.

J.R. Smith, who had eight points and four rebounds in Cleveland's 113-99 loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday, is worried about the direction his team is headed, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

We can't play basketball like this going down the stretch. There's 24, 25 games left in the year and you talk about contending, being a championship contender and get blown out by a team. ... After losing a game to the No. 2 team in the East then you come out and get thrashed and make it look good at the end.

We can't do that. If we're serious about who we're supposed to be, then we can't do this.

Having the No. 1 seed doesn't guarantee anything when it comes to making the NBA Finals. Cleveland superstar LeBron James has been on the top team in his conference just once during the past five years, and he's made the Finals each time.

However, even though James did not play against the Wizards after head coach Tyronn Lue gave him the day off, it's not a promising sign for the Cavaliers. In fact, Lue benched his regulars after he felt like they were not giving a full effort against Washington.

Smith said he expected it to happen, per McMenamin: "I wasn't surprised. We weren't playing the way we were supposed to play. We weren't executing our offense. We damn sure weren't playing defense. So I wasn't surprised at all."

He also said the Cavaliers' energy level is too low:

If you lose a game like the other night to a team like Toronto and come out here and play the way we did and you had a lack of energy, maybe we shouldn't be in this position. I don't know. It's tough. If we're going to play with a lack of energy after losing a game on the road and come out and play the way we did today, then we shouldn't be who we are and be in these uniforms.

Robert Raiola, a sports and entertainment senior group manager at PKF O'Connor Davies, noted the recent slump for the Cavaliers since firing head coach David Blatt:

Cleveland's lead has dwindled to just two games over the Toronto Raptors, but with James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love, the Cavs are still the best team in the East.

The Cavs play their next four games at home, but they aren't cupcakes (Pacers, Wizards, Celtics, Grizzlies).