The look on everyone's faces pretty much sums up the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers season.
I feel like I start off every single Cavs post the same: The Cavs have lost [X] games in a row (we can make that X a 20 today).
The Cavs will be without [Player X] and [Player Y] for the next few games (let's use Mo Williams and Leon Powe).
With another loss the Cavs will take a step closer to not only equal a new low in franchise history (which is saying something, considering some of the poor seasons the organization has had in the past), but new lows in NBA history (now just five losses away from the all-time losing streak). It's hard to imagine things getting any better in the foreseeable future.
Depressing doesn't even begin to describe how the last two months have played out. One more loss means the Cavs will finish 0-for-January. They have just one win in the last 65 days. I'll say it again: one win in 65 days!
They're wrapping up a brutal 10-day stretch where they played five teams with winning records and the four best teams in the East on the road. The odds that they'll snap a 20-game losing streak tonight aren't in their favor either.
The seeds of the Cavaliers crashing and burning and the Heat rising were planted well before the Dec. 2 meeting in Cleveland. Still, that's the game everyone points to as the turning point for both sides: Miami fed off the animosity towards one of their own to grow closer together and found a common rallying point while a national television audience saw just how bad of a roster the Cavaliers actually had.
Since then, the Cavaliers are 1-29 and the Heat are 22-6. I'm not one who believes Dec. 2 was a defining and season-changing moment for both teams—the Heat were always going to be good, the Cavaliers were always going to be bad. Looking at the records and quality of play since that day, I can understand the argument.
The rematch two weeks later is less discussed on the national scene, but it was quietly one of the better games the Cavs played this season. They led after the first quarter and opened up a 10-point lead in the second before a hot streak from Mario Chalmers (of all people) gave Miami a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Trailing by just two to start the fourth quarter, the Cavs could never piece together a rally to get back out in front.
Unfortunately things are a little different now. Gone are Mo Williams (injury), Anderson Varejao (injury), Daniel Gibson (injury) and Anthony Parker from the starting lineup. In their place are a PG who has never played for a team with more than 34 wins (Ramon Sessions), an undrafted rookie SG (Manny Harris), a SF from the Congo (Christian Eyenga) who has played 11 career NBA games and J.J. Hickson.
Miami excels in almost all areas where Cleveland struggles. The Cavs struggle to defend the perimeter and keep guards out of the paint, a tough task when going up against two of the league's best playmakers (Dwyane Wade and LeBron James).
The Cavs are the worst team in the league at defending the three; Miami is No. 8 in three-point shooting (37.8 percent) and have guys that can burn you if left unattended (Eddie House, Mike Miller, even Chalmers).
The Cavs have no discernible plan on offense and struggle with ball movement, making the extra pass and scoring easy buckets inside (No. 21 in points in the paint); the Heat are one of the league's best defensive teams in terms of opponent scoring (94.0 per game), field goal percentage (42.6 percent) and points in the paint allowed (38.5).
You get the idea.
To say a team is in desperate need of a win after losing 20 in a row is quite the understatement. You can see it every time the Cavs take the floor—with each loss the culture of losing slowly engulfs the team and the young guys lose more and more confidence.
When the veterans (particularly Antawn Jamison) are pulled in the fourth quarter because the team faces an insurmountable deficit, they bury their faces in towels on the bench. Losing may be expected by the fans, but when it comes from the players it's a far more serious matter and one that is not easily resolved.
For the next couple of years, until the Cavaliers are legitimate playoff contenders (and that will be multiple years away), games against LeBron James and the Heat will be based purely on pride. As the losing culture takes over, digging down and finding that pride becomes more and more difficult.
Remember, over half of the team that plays tonight weren't teammates with James in Cleveland—they can't dig up that feeling of betrayal or anger that scarred the fans when James went on national TV to proclaim that he's "taking his talents to South Beach."
When Will the Cavaliers Finally Win a Game?
Maybe in 10 years this works out better for the Cavs. Who knows? After James left, the path to rebuilding was to acquire draft picks, get some talented, franchise-type of players in the lottery, find quality role players in later rounds (a la Landry Fields) and fill in the pieces with small free agency acquisitions. Losing 20 in a row is excessive to ensure the team will have the best chance to win the lottery, but it's better than being stuck in mediocrity and fighting for the Nos. 7-10 seeds in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.
The team missed an opportunity to galvanize a fan base that desperately wanted to rally around them when injuries piled up and they didn't swing back after James & co. landed some stiff punches to the chin on Dec. 2. Yet, after everything disastrous that has occurred in the last seven months, they still have a chance to make the highlight of their season: snapping a historic losing streak against the city's most disliked athlete.
It's probably a .01 percent chance, but it's still a chance. That's about all the Cavaliers and fans have at this point.