BOSTON — We’ve reached that time of year, my friends.
It’s the time of year when the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ season starts to go off the rails a bit — as it did each of the past three campaigns. And through some combination of fans panicking, LeBron James tweeting cryptically and the front office wheeling and dealing, the Cavs made it to three straight NBA Finals.
Wednesday’s loss — a 102-88 stinker against the Boston Celtics — shouldn’t be all that surprising. Cleveland, the oldest team in the league, was playing on the second night of a back-to-back. And the Cavaliers were playing on the road after flying in late Tuesday night. And they were playing a Celtics team that had 2? months to stew on its opening-night loss in Cleveland and anticipate its chance for some measure of revenge.
Still, rationalization doesn’t do much to soften the blow in the standings resulting from the Cavs’ current rut of five losses in their past seven games. At 25-13, they’re currently third in the East, 4? games back of No. 1 Boston and two games behind the No. 2 Toronto Raptors, whom they play later on their five-game trip.
They had their second-worst shooting night of the season against the Celtics, making just 34.8 percent of their shots from the field and 8-of-32 from beyond the arc to snap their franchise-record streak of 26 straight games with 10 or more 3-pointers. The only game in which the Cavs have shot worse was Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.
It’s not just that they’ve looked so out of sorts against the two teams that many think they will face in the Eastern Conference finals and the NBA Finals. Until the Cavs start racking up some wins against the league’s better teams, that hot streak they put together when they reeled off 18 victories out of 19 games will look more and more hollow because it was mostly against weaker teams.
“I’m always concerned about other teams getting better and better,” James said after Wednesday’s loss. “But I’m more concerned about us getting better and better. That’s the bigger thing. Washington and obviously this team right here, Miami is trying to get better and better, Toronto is playing exceptional basketball right now. The East is pretty damn good this year, and right now we’re not so good. [We were] great, [now] not so good. See what happens next. But you’ve always got to be concerned with the competition, for sure.”
James was right to focus on the Cavs before scanning the competition. Right now, it…