It was never supposed to be easy but the Cleveland Cavaliers are making hard work of this behemoth creation business.
Very hard work. They’re still 4.25 favourites to win the NBA title and after just 11 competitive games, it’s far to early to declare this grand experiment a bust. Still, there are troubling signs in Cleveland.
The all-new Cavs go into tonight’s clash with the Toronto Raptors on a three-game losing streak that has dropped them to a 5-6 record – already 4 1Ž2 games off the top of the Eastern Conference, headed by Canada’s finest.
And the numbers don’t lie. A lowly 9th in offensive efficiency, a hammer for a team with so much talent and a coach with a track record in the field. 24th in defensive efficiency. Average in almost every area, except for LeBron James.
But even the NBA’s second highest scorer is toiling, notching just 19.7 points per game during Cleveland’s current skid, almost six below his average. During that stretch, the Cavs team scoring clip has been just 88.3, 14 off their average and below even what the woeful 76ers are managing.
Yet it’s not just about the raw statistics. Kyrie Irving has failed to be the glue to hold his colleagues together. Kevin Love, putting up a career-low 15.9 points per game, doesn’t seem to know whether he’s coming or going and has been a shadow of his best.
James has been a vocal critique, including of himself. And coach David Blatt admits he has no immediate solutions to what could yet turn into a crisis.
It all contrasts with Toronto, who have won three in a row, and have an identity all their own. And at a tempting 2.30 for the victory, they could steal the show and leave the Cavaliers mired in mediocrity.
Best bet: Go under 200.5 total points in Cleveland – Toronto at 2.95.