When the Cleveland Cavaliers started the season 1-3, LeBron James told the world to relax. After that tweet, the Cavs won four straight games and we thought James was in control. But they’ve lost four straight games since then and have dropped to 5-7 to fall two games below five hundred once again. And so we ask this question: Can we still relax?
There is a Precedent
When LeBron told us to relax, he was speaking from his own personal experience. When he left Cleveland in 2010 to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, that super team started the season 9-8. However, that team won 21 out of their next 22 games and went on to finish that season with 58 wins to win the Southeast Division and finish second place in the East. That team went on to play in the NBA Finals although they lost to the Dallas Mavericks 2-4.
At 5-7, the Cavaliers need to go 4-1 in their next five games to match the Heat’s 2011 season start. Here are their next five opponents:
- November 24 vs Orlando Magic
- November 26 vs Washington
- November 29 vs Indiana
- December 2 vs Milwaukee
- December 4 @ New York
Except for the Washington Wizards, those teams have a combined record of 22-34. And considering that four of those five games will be played at home, it’s easy to conclude that the Cavaliers can very well match the 2011 Heat’s 9-8 start. But even if there is a historical precedent, it does not guarantee that the Cavs will finish the season like the Heat did in 2011.
A Reeling Start
The Cavaliers 5-7 start is their worst start in the LeBron James era since James’ rookie season in 2004 when they floundered to a 4-8. For a team that was supposed to have three 20 point scorers, the Cavaliers offense is struggling. The Cavs are only 13th in the NBA in total points scored (101.8) and 14th in offensive efficiency (104.4). But while those rankings say that the Cavs should be in the middle of the pack, they’ve blown hot and cold in their first twelve games: four straight wins and four straight losses.
In those four wins, the Cavs were #1 in offensive efficiency ( 120.5) but in this four game losing streak, they are #29 ( 91.9). The key stat during these four losses was LeBron James’ scoring. When James scores less than 20 points this season, the Cavaliers are 0-4. James only had 15 points during Saturday’s loss to the Raptors and 15 during their loss to the Spurs last November 19.
Aside from their offense, the Cavaliers have also been turning the ball over lately. They are 28th in the NBA in Turnover percentage (18.8) during this four game skid. When they won four straight games, the Cavs took good care of the leather and were #2 in turnover percentage (11.1). During their latest loss to the Raptors, the Cavs turned the ball over a season high 20 times. They’ve had at least 18 turnovers in their last three games while they’ve had that number once in their first nine contests.
Blowing hot and cold means that the Cavaliers are very inconsistent. That is expected of a team that has six new key players. James says the main culprit is team chemistry. The lack of it leads to turnovers and to taking shots that are not their usual sweet shots. After saying relax a couple of weeks ago, James now says they are a fragile crew that “shells up” in adversity. Again, he says this will get better with time. But he’s no longer saying relax. Is he not saying so because it’s redundant or is it because it’s time to really panic now?