The Cavaliers’ recent swoon hit a new low point on Saturday night when they gave up 148 points to the Thunder in a 24-point loss. With the loss Cleveland dropped to 27-18 on the season, going 3-9 in their last 12 games, and is just 1.5 games out of the 5-seed which would take away homecourt advantage in the first round.
During this recent 12-game stretch, Cleveland has the league’s worst defensive rating at 113.4, a full point per 100 possessions worse than the Suns at 29th. Something needs to change for the Cavs, and while they showed the ability in November to turn around a bad defensive stretch, the catalyst for that was a rotational shift when Derrick Rose went out with an injury.
With Rose back and the debut of Isaiah Thomas, it’s clear the Cavs are having trouble adjusting to changing roles and the different rotations. One would think this would lead to some tweaks by coach Tyronn Lue in an effort to regain some of that harmony that helped them rattle off that 18-1 stretch over November and December. However, they would be wrong.
Lue, who just got a vote of confidence from LeBron, is insisting the Cavs stay the course and hoping they will figure things out with the rotations as currently set, but will have the Cavs practice more.
The practice element will at least make Isaiah Thomas happy, as he’s noted how difficult it’s been for him to find his playing rhythm with the Cavs never practicing. It does make you wonder what would have to happen for him to tweak his lineups and rotations, but one also has to note that there isn’t a ton he can do with the guys on the roster to make the defense better.
Lue has to pretty much play with the hand he’s been dealt by the front office, and that hand features a lot of aging players, many of whom were never good defenders to begin with. Considering their best stretch of basketball was played without Derrick Rose and with Jose Calderon (who is far from a lockdown defender) in the rotation instead, that is probably the swap that makes the most sense for Lue to try, but he doesn’t appear willing to give Rose a short leash early in his return to the floor.
The general line of thinking has been to never be truly concerned about a LeBron-led team in January, because the switch will eventually be flipped come playoff time. However, even James himself seems more worried about this squad than any in recent memory and it’s fair to question how many others on this team aside from LeBron even have a switch to flip anymore.