In the month of March 2017, the Cleveland Cavaliers endured a pair of three-game losing streaks, amounting to a 7-10 record. That season was dominated by appeals for Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics to upend the Cavs’ championship aspirations, and the losses, including a 29-point blowout to the San Antonio Spurs, seemed to signal the beginning of the end to the Cavs’ 2017 Finals run.
But the Cavs made it anyway.
Amidst a healthy amount of derision leading up to the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the LeBron James led Cavaliers took aim at a third straight trip to the Finals, handedly eliminating any team along the way. This meant a pair of sweeps over the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, as well as a 4-1 finish over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Though the final matchup against the Golden State Warriors proved insurmountable for Cleveland, the road to the finals established a new lore among basketball fans: the East can’t stop the Cavs.
Specifically, the East can’t stop James, but it so happens he whiles his time away in Cleveland.
Now seven months removed from the NBA Finals, the Cavs are enduring yet another three-game losing skid. The kicker? Those games were lost by a collective margin of 64 points.
Even more astounding is the Cavs’ competition in that span. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Raptors and Pacers, all playoff hopefuls, had their way with Cleveland, with the Wolves leading by as many as 41 and the Pacers erasing a 22-point deficit en route to victory.
So, what seems to be the problem? Are teams finally catching up to Cleveland?
The greatest common denominator for Cleveland’s struggles has been incorporating new talent. Just before the 7-10 month of March last season, the Cavs picked up a pair of bench pieces, namely Deron Williams on February 27 and Derrick Williams. While Derrick proved capable of bringing energy in spurts off the bench, Deron was a shell the former point guard that used to draw comparisons to Chris Paul.
Around the same time, the Cavs also tinkered with adding a center. After Andrew Bogut fractured his tibia a minute into his first Cavs appearance, Cleveland turned to trial runs of Larry Sanders, which failed to pan out.
Skip to the start of the 2017-18 season, and the assimilation of Dwyane Wade proved difficult. After a safe 3-1 start to the year, the Cavs hit a four-game wall of losses, as Wade attempted to adjust to his new role off the bench.
Currently in 2018, the Cavs are once again trying to infuse a new member, as Thomas tries to find his footing after missing substantial time to a hip injury. While he appeared fine in his first two games back on a minutes restriction, Thomas was infected with the same shooting bug that halted the rest of the Cavs’ scoring in these last few contests. Shooting just 3-of-11 against Minnesota and 2-of-15 against Toronto, Thomas has struggled to find quality looks in his return.
Take this pullup jumper against the Raptors. Down 27 in a five on three situation, Thomas forces a contested three, only bailed out by a long rebound.
Against the Wolves a similar phenomenon took place. Thomas receiving the ball off of a screen, he ends up forcing a bad look due to indecision between a free-throw line jumper and a lob to Tristan Thompson.
Despite the recent slide, Cleveland is among the best equipped teams to handle adversity in the East. Holding a 15-4 record at the Quicken Loans Arena the Cavs have given up the third fewest losses at home, behind only the Raptors and the Spurs.
So long as they manage to right the ship come April, a fourth-place finish and home court advantage should be more than enough to keep the league weary of Cleveland.
Thoughts on the Cavs recent losses? Let me know @bjtripleot on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org