OK Cavs fans. I’m only going to say this once. Listen carefully.
This three game losing streak is not a big deal. Step away from the ledge, take a deep breath, and calm down.
After yesterday’s 101-95 loss in Orlando, many of you are ready to jump. Who can blame you? After all, you are a Cleveland fan and it is in our DNA to assume the worst and attempt to prepare for it. But please consider the following:
The three game losing streak came on the heels of a 13 game winning streak. If the Cavs had a 16-game run where they went 13-3, would any of you be worried? Nope. But since the three games came in a row, all of a sudden the sky is falling. Also, you cannot forget that the winning streak featured the longest home-stand the Cavs had had in five years.
Consider the opponents. The first loss came Thursday night at The Q to the Denver Nuggets by two points in OT. This was their first game without Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and with Mo Williams back. It took 17 missed free throws and a Carmelo Anthony jumper with 1.1 seconds left to end the streak. There is certainly no shame in losing to the Nuggets, who are currently second in the Western Conference and are generally thought of as one of the five best teams in the NBA. Oh, and after yesterday’s beat down of Boston, Denver is now 5-0 against the Lakers, Cavs, and Celtics this season.
The next loss came on the heels of a back to backer – their first in a month – in Charlotte, a team that seems to have the Cavs number this season. The Bobcats have taken down the Wine and Gold three of the four times the teams have met. In this one, Antawn Jamison made his debut for a weary group of Cavaliers, who played an overtime game that didn’t end until 11 pm EST and had to get geared back up for a 7 pm EST start in Charlotte. The grogginess showed. Mike Brown’s bunch never seemed into it from the opening tip and were blown out 110-93. Worst of all, Jamison, the one player who was fresh, produced a horrific debut, going 0-12 from the field.
Yesterday’s loss, the third in a row, was a tough road spot against another of the NBA’s top five teams and their current rival, the Orlando Magic. In this one, the Magic came out absolutely smokin’, peaking at 62% late in the second quarter. The Cavs led late in the fourth quarter, but were again done in by the hot-shooting Magic, who nailed their last eight field goals to close out the game. Just like with the Nuggets, there is absolutely no shame in losing to Orlando. Did you all forget that the Cavs had already beaten them twice this year?
(side note – is there any team that you dislike more, right this second, than the Magic? Between Dwight Howard and the extremely unlikeable dog Vince Carter, I just despise them.)
The Jamison acquisition and the return of Mo Williams changes the rotation completely. Mo Williams is back. Delonte West is back. Antwan Jamison is in. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is out. So what does Mike Brown do now? Just like he had to at the beginning of the season, the Cavs head man is trying to figure out roles for so many talented players.
Prime example: On Thursday night, Jawad Williams played 16 minutes, while Jamario Moon got his first DNP-CD in weeks. The next night in Charlotte, Moon played 17 while Jawad played three. Yesterday, Moon never got off the bench while Jawad played 13 minutes, including some of the fourth quarter.
Boobie Gibson played so well as a starter during the 13 game winning streak, yet he will now struggle to find a role (why wasn’t he out there late in the game yesterday rather than the ice cold Mo Williams?). Not having Z on the roster now put more minutes on Shaq at the five, as well as moving Anderson Varejao to the role of backup Center, which he has rarely done this season. Also consider J.J. Hickson’s reduced role, getting Mo back into the flow, and the entire team needing to see how they work with Jamison, who still has yet to participate in a full practice with the team.
Do not forget how the team struggled early on under these same set of circumstances with Shaq, Anthony Parker, and Moon. It’s up to Mike Brown to figure out a shortened rotation and go with it. It will take some time, but by the time the playoffs come around, the Cavs should be hitting their stride again.
Don’t worry, this team will be fine. They are veteran laden, smart, and will re-focus once things settle down. Listen to your captain, Lebron James: “We’re going through a transition period right now. Coach is trying to figure out lineups, we’re trying to figure out certain sets but ‘Tawn is going to help us out a lot for the rest of the season.”
This is a tough stretch of their schedule (after a home tilt with New Orleans on Tuesday, they have back to back road games Thursday and Friday at Boston and at Toronto) and more losses may come. But again, they still have a five game lead over Orlando in the East and have plenty of time to get their groove back. In the end, its all about the ring anyways. And that wouldn’t come until June.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack