It can’t be that easy. It just can’t be.
There’s just no way the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to figure out all of their problems, issues which have been plaguing them for the past month and a half, in one game.
I should be thrilled, especially after a night like last night. Watching the Cavs head to New England and thoroughly spank a Boston Celtics team seen by many as a potential threat should have me as elated as the rest of the Cleveland fan-base seems to be.
Instead, I just find myself perplexed. How could this team look beyond dysfunctional for so long and then suddenly turn on the gas and boat-race one of the Eastern Conference’s top contenders? How can we go from “this team might be in trouble” to “next stop: NBA Finals” in the span of a week?
It all makes me hesitant to jump back to thinking the Cavs are just fine. They may very well be, but it’s going to take more than last night’s blowout to convince me their problems are a thing of the past.
I’m not here to take anything away from what Cleveland did last night. Despite LeBron James‘ (probably phony) insistence that this contest against the Celtics was just another game, he and his teammates made a statement by playing near-flawless basketball in a bout which appeared decided around halftime. If the Cavs’ goal was to convince everyone they could handle Boston come postseason, the message was certainly received.
But was this rout also a sign Cleveland has officially righted the ship? I’m just not convinced. Not yet, at least.
I’m not here to deny the talent on this roster, nor am I trying to downplay the significance of last night’s win. The problem, though, is just how deeply rooted the Cavs’ issues seemed to be.
Said dilemmas were so painfully apparent it’s tough to believe a thorough beat-down of the team many see as their toughest Eastern Conference competition is all it takes to get rid of them.
The defense has been disjointed and lazy, with so many plays over the past month ending with two Cavaliers looking at each other confused and shrugging. Outside of last week’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland had gone almost a month’s worth of games allowing 100 or more points.
Outside of defense, the Cavs’ overall chemistry looked to be in shambles. We’re only two games removed from James and Tristan Thompson getting into a heated screaming match on the court. This came after a week of veiled finger-pointing from James and Kyrie Irving which implied not everyone was giving 100%.
These just don’t seem like problems which get solved overnight. The defense has been relatively putrid all season long. The team itself hasn’t looked motivated for most of the calendar year. Various reports painted the picture of a locker room full of angst and agitation.
But the Cavs just rolled over Boston, so it’s all fixed.
As convincing as last night’s win was, I still find it difficult to believe the aforementioned problems are in the rear-view. If this is indeed the case, though, Cleveland needs to do more to prove it. As positive as everyone is after last night, all it would take is a couple sloppy losses to send people back to the “Cavs are in trouble” narrative. For all we know, the issues aren’t alleviated, they just took a night off.
Or maybe these guys are just sand-bagging us. Maybe they got together after the All-Star break and said “let’s work as hard as we can to convince everyone we’re a hot mess.” Perhaps this team is capable of putting said shtick aside for a night to wallop a contender.
Honest to God, this scenario wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever. The Cavs have looked bored for months, so I wouldn’t put it past them to intentionally add some drama to the season and watch all of us panic about it.
If they put forth a few more wins like last night’s, the idea of this dysfunction all being a bit would seem even more realistic. At the very least, I’ll be more persuaded to believe Cleveland is back to being the contender we remember.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook