The Cavaliers may have come away from tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic with a win, but the team looks as hopeless as ever. The Magic are the NBA’s worst squad with a record of 13-32. The Cavaliers, facing such opposition, choked away an enormous lead and almost lost before the referees bailed them out. I’ll say that again. Cleveland was outhustled and outmatched throughout the second half by the worst team in the NBA. This is not a comeback effort by the Golden State Warriors, or the Houston Rockets, or the Boston Celtics. No—a team led by Elfrid Payton drove into the paint with no resistance and torched the Cavaliers time and time again.
Cleveland refuses to move the ball in the fourth quarters of games. It didn’t work against the Warriors. Shockingly, it didn’t work tonight either. Who knew that having LeBron James or Isaiah Thomas dribble the ball for twenty seconds and chuck up an off-balance shot was not a formula for success? LeBron needs to improve his offensive attitude in crunch time—no excuses. He turned the ball over, then missed a deep, rushed three-pointer, then lofted a pass right to the Orlando Magic in the space of only a couple minutes. He was horrible tonight, and has been subpar for a while. He scored 16 points and tallied just 6 assists and 5 rebounds, and is averaging 22.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game in January—James’ worst stretch of basketball in years. What happened to the King? LeBron looks passive, unenthusiastic, and sloppy. If James wants to be the MVP everyone loves to say he is, he cannot play like this any longer.
The starting lineup is atrocious overall. J.R Smith used to provide an important shooting and defensive presence on this team, but at this point in his career he is not much of anything. He does not give any sort of effort and runs in an aimlessness fashion up and down the court. Smith keeps passing up open three-pointers for floating runners. It makes sense in his head, I suppose. Jae Crowder, meanwhile, is slow and approaching Markelle Fultz levels of shooting ineptitude. Remember when Crowder was an important part of the Boston Celtics? That was fun.
Cleveland needs to make a trade as soon as possible, or this team has no chance of doing any sort of damage in the playoffs, let alone the Finals. The Cavaliers have made trades to save seasons before—the Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov deals in 2015 and the Channing Frye trade in 2016. The new front office is going to have to pull off the incredible. DeAndre Jordan may not be available thanks to the resurgence of the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins are only dreams at this point. Can Marc Gasol turn around Cleveland’s year? Maybe, maybe not. But the Cavaliers have to make some sort of dramatic change and this would certainly fulfill that need. Cleveland could move Kevin Love back to power forward, and possess some sort of defensive anchor in the middle, even if Gasol is aging.
Regardless, it is not much fun to be a Cleveland Cavaliers fan right now.
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