At the beginning of this month, I wrote that the Cavaliers March schedule was perhaps the easiest monthly stretch of games that any team in the league would face all season. They have won 9 of 10 so far with the only loss coming in Milwaukee sans LeBron. They continued their run through the Central Division last night against a depleted Chicago Bulls team. The Cavs played with low intensity and with little regard for their opponent. The game was closer than it should have been but the Cavs appeared to show no concern or doubt that they would not end up with the victory when all was said and done. The main takeaway from this game was yet another milestone achieved by LeBron: youngest player in NBA history to reach 15,000 points.
There were simply few notable moments last night in Chicago other than your typical LBJ “wow” athleticism (we are spoiled) and some much needed improved free throw shooting. LeBron finished with 29-11-7 which came quietly until he scored 13 points in a fourth quarter takeover as the Cavs kicked into gear to finish off Chicago. The Bulls were without Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose and had lost 9 in a row. Brian Windhorst expounded on the easy schedule and March lethargy:
The Cavs are very clearly restless with what is going on right now and they need a challenge. Some would say they could use a loss. They are winning by giving somewhere around 70 percent effort because, not only are they in an easy part of the schedule, but they continue to face teams that are decimated by injuries.
You could clearly see it during the fourth quarter when they were behind a few times. There was no concern whatsoever on the bench or on the floor that were going to lose the game. It may be easy to feel that way when playing against a team like the Bulls, who are on a miserable losing streak because of their injury problems. But they looked the same way when beating Boston on Sunday.
The Cavs won last night with little contribution from Antawn Jamison on the offensive end. He scored on 2 points and took only 4 shots. Mo Williams was shooting well and scored 18 points. But aside from Anderson Varejao, who was his usual active self, the Cavs seemed to coast throughout the game. While most of the basketball world is focused on the college game, the end of March in the NBA is often used to begin to round out a playoff rotation and ramp up the intensity heading into the stretch run and playoff season. The Cavaliers’ “stretch run” may consist of simply resting their players due to their success throughout the season.
Mike Brown is concerned with the lethargy and stretch of weak opponents because of potential bad habits that can develop when a team is not playing at its highest level with intensity and purpose. A microcosm of this coasting has been the continual struggle to maintain large leads in games over the past two seasons. This is a nitpick of a deep and successful team but has to be a concern as the regular season winds down.
It was beneficial to have some easier games after Shaq initially went down and Z was traded away. Antawn has been incorporated into the offense and Z should be back this week. The Cavs appear to be destined for the best record in the league with a 3 game lead on the Lakers who have a tougher schedule and are now dealing with what could be a serious injury to Andrew Bynum. The Cavs hit the road and take on more injury riddled teams in New Orleans and San Antonio this week but it should at least provide a more intense competition than we have seen over the past two weeks. But first they must take care of business against the woeful Detroit Pistons for the 3rd time in two weeks at the Q tomorrow evening.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)