The Cavaliers are about to lock up the #1 seed in the eastern conference with a 55+ win season. They're still the prohibitive favorite to win the eastern conference and are the only team that presents a "threat" to the Warriors in the Finals - assuming the Ws beat the Spurs. And yet somehow, the Cavs are the most frustrating team in the NBA.
First, there's the ongoing saga of Kevin Love and whether or not he's playing up to his ability and contract. Obviously his scoring average is down and he's not the lights-out shooter from 3-point range that everyone hoped for - especially considering he gets more open looks than seemingly anyone in the league. According to NBA.com, Love is getting 25% of his field goals with no defender within six feet. He is, thankfully, shooting 38% on those threes. It would be nice if this was higher, but 38% is decent. With the closest defender 4-6 feet away (the NBA defines this as "open" as opposed to "wide open"), Love is shooting an ugly 28%. This accounts for another 15% of his shots, meaning that over 40% of his field goals are open threes. He's hitting less than 35% of them.
Nobody wants their shooters to take contested shots, and Kevin Love is abiding by that logic. Less than 5% of his shots are contested threes. Again, this is a good thing, but it also adds to the theory that Love is not playing with confidence.
Second, there's Kyrie Irving's poor shooting season and the questions about whether or not he's selfish/a real PG/willing to get his teammates involved. Everyone likes to point fingers when the Cavs hit a rough patch of games, and that makes sense. A lot of times, Kyrie gets the blame because LeBron has won titles and gets a bit of a free pass after re-signing with Cleveland in the first place. But when Irving has a late-game possession and dribbles it out for 19 seconds before going 1-on-1, people get upset. The poor shooting is something that everyone thinks will come around, but even if it doesn't, it's hard to say what the solution is. He might just be having a bad season and that's that. Maybe last year was the fluke and this year is the regression - it's hard to say. What's certain is that Kyrie is struggling but his teammates still have faith in him.
Related to this, Terry Pluto dug up some interesting info this week: He pointed out that Kyrie is nowhere to be found in the Cavs' top 11 3-man rotatiosn as far as +/- per 100 possessions goes. He did searches on groups with 250+ minutes, too, so fluke-lineups don't count. (Read Pluto's column here)
Third, and most importantly, the Cavs just look like they don't care. Going into the weekend, the Cavs are 5-3 in their past 8 games. Before the loss to Indiana, LeBron said it seemed like they were starting to click at the right time. People believed him. I don't believe him. It started with the embarrassing loss to Brooklyn. Five days later they blew a 20 point lead over the Rockets and lost by 6 at home. Against Atlanta, 3 days later, the Cavs once again blew a big lead and needed overtime to eke out a victory. Next up, Charlotte crawled back from down 20, cut it to 4, but Cleveland pushed it back to 9 for the win. So after beating Milwaukee by 29, they're clicking and everything is fine? No chance.
The Pacers game was just embarrassing, and it leads me to my point.
Much like how the training/coaching staff is mandating that certain players take a couple of days off, I want to suggest that fans take a couple of days off from watching the Cavs. If you skip a few games, you'll remember the good things. You'll focus on how the team can go on 16-2 runs in three minutes. You'll think about passes zipping around the perimeter before LBJ cuts down the lane for a thunderous dunk. You'll think about JR Smith playing shockingly great defense or TT grabbing consecutive offensive rebounds. Just like how the players will be resting up for the playoffs, the fans should do the same.
If you ignore my advice, you'll watch the final few games in a haze of "nobody cares" basketball. Stars will be sitting, players will be shrugging each time there's a blown assignment, and you'll notice every time Kevin Love passes up a wide-open three. You'll notice the iso-ball possessions that result in 0 points. You'll cringe each time the pick-and-roll defense is blown and Reggie Jackson gets a thunderous run down the lane in a mini 4-on-3. You don't need that frustration from games that don't matter. No one does.
I spent the past week in Florida, thinking I would find a way to watch the Cavs each night. Instead, each time I saw they'd blown a lead I smiled because I didn't have to get angry about it.
It's important to support your favorite team. The Cavaliers should be the focus of your intense support during the playoffs. But perhaps take a night off to not stress about Love passing up an open look to send a pass to Shumpert for a contested three. Breathe a little. Enjoy spring.
Just make sure you wash your lucky jersey for the playoff run.