To put it mildly, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have a good week.
After an impressive victory a week ago Sunday against a title contending Oklahoma City team on the road, the Cavs looked lethargic in losing three out of their next four.
They lost at home to Detroit, lost a game they had a nine point fourth quarter lead at Toronto, and then lost a game without LeBron James at Washington, in a contest that was a blowout until garbage time.
Yes, James is one of the two best players in the sport (we still think the best), but there is no way a team that still has two of the best 15-20 players in the NBA in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, should be getting smoked by the Wizards.
And as we have pointed out before, since the wine and gold tried to speed up their tempo, their defense has suffered greatly especially on the perimeter.
That puts the spotlight squarely on Irving, who has never been a great defensive player, but seems to have regressed this season.
Opposing point guards have been skewering Cleveland, getting dribble penetration and forcing big men to help, and no one is picking up their men in return.
The result is a bunch of layups and dunks, and it appears the interior defense is terrible too.
Irving simply must do a better job if this team is to get where they want to go, which is hoisting an NBA Championship trophy.
There is no reason why Irving can’t be better on that end of the floor, the same quickness that allows him to get to the basket at will allows him to be better on defense, the problem is he seems to be more interested when the ball is in his hands.
When Tyronn Lue took over as head coach, he spoke about the need to sacrifice, and we believe almost everyone can agree that no one has done that more than Kevin Love, who is scoring about eight points less per game a night, and doesn’t get the touches he should based on his ability to score.
Irving seems to be in the same mode as always, showing off his handle, and driving to the basket with a mindset of scoring first, and setting up a teammate second.
That’s a good attitude on a squad devoid of talent, but not on these Cavs.
It seems lately that at least once or twice a game, Matthew Dellavedova finds a cutting James for a layup. When was the last time you saw Irving make the same pass?
Even James could afford to give up something for the greater good. He could stop forcing three point shots, because right now, his long range shot is a liability.
He could also give maximum effort on defense in less minutes, and show the rest of his teammates, including Irving, that he is walking the walk, and they need to follow suit.
By the way, that’s being a leader. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.
We can’t use the excuse that it’s still early, there are only 23 games left on the schedule. Improvement defensively needs to be seen by the middle of this month.
That the path to a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have to be strong on the defensive end, and that starts with improvement from Kyrie Irving.