On the surface, it certainly seems strange to gripe about a 2-0 series lead. For all intents and purposes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are doing what they’re supposed to this postseason – winning the first two contests against a lesser team in the seventh seeded Indiana Pacers. Final scores aside, the Cavs have taken the court twice and avoided giving Indy any sort of advantage.
With all of this said, it’s still difficult to get too excited about how the first two games of this series have gone down for Cleveland. Sure, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have each put forth strong showings. At the same time, this was a team showing some obvious flaws entering the playoffs, issues which don’t appear to have been cleaned up just yet.
Cleveland is certainly talented enough to win this series despite maintaining the same lackadaisical effort. However, as comfy as the team appears when sleepwalking through more contests, it can’t afford to keep this trend up much longer.
Coming into the postseason, three problems seemed to be plaguing the Cavs – laziness, horrid defense and, as a result of these two habits, blown fourth quarters. Ask most of the fan-base – and even some of the players – and you got the impression these were all coming from the grind of the regular season. Once the postseason kicked off, all of these red flags would be a thing of the past.
While two games is hardly a significant sample size, we still have yet to see any of these issues disappear.
In almost every quarter played this series, defense has appeared to be an afterthought for Cleveland. When it looks as though a run is about to kick off thanks to a strong offensive sequence from the Cavs, said momentum is typically stopped short by a sloppy effort on the other side of the court.
However, each game has eventually come to a point where Cleveland has built itself a sizable lead. A 12-point advantage was established late in Game 1, while the Cavs entered the fourth quarter of last night’s game with what appeared to be a runaway 18-point lead.
Cleveland ended up winning the first game by one, and watched Indy claw to within five in the final minutes of Game 2. Each instance involved the Cavs getting lazy and easing off the gas, allowing for their token fourth quarter collapse to come into fruition.
To their credit, neither instance resulted in a loss. At the same time, the implication was these bad habits would be left in the regular season.
You could argue this is really no big deal, especially since the Pacers have struggled to take advantage of these hiccups. While this is indeed true, I struggle to believe the case will be the same with opponents Cleveland would face further up the road.
Eventually, this habit of putting up just enough energy to get a lead, only to shift into cruise control and give it right back is going to burn the Cavs. If they keep transforming fourth quarters into a display of lazy isolation basketball and lethargic defense, their opponent is going to cash in on a victory.
Obviously it’s still quite early in the playoffs, so there’s nothing to panic about at the moment. It’s odd, however, to note the issue with Cleveland seemed to be “well clearly this team can’t be bothered to care about regular season basketball.” Are we now to believe the concept of playing hard in the first round of the playoffs is below the Cavs, too?
If this is the case, whatever. It hasn’t burnt Cleveland just yet. That said, unless the Cavs can finally put an end to these bad habits, it’s only a matter of time before their postseason becomes unnecessarily more difficult.