The Cleveland Cavaliers are 42-17. They have the third-best record in the NBA, they lead Toronto (39-19) by two-and-a-half games for the top spot in the East and they’ve won seven of 10.
Yes, they had a bad weekend in that they lost at Toronto on a buzzer-beater and then lost at Washington in a game in which LeBron James didn’t play, but come on. The sky isn’t falling in Cleveland. J.R. Smith called out his teammates after Sunday’s loss to the Wizards, but the Cavs are a shoe-in for the Eastern Conference Finals and, most likely, the NBA Finals.
All of this late-February, early-March concern is nonsense, isn’t it?
“Absolutely, especially when you got a team that looks like they’re going to win 70-plus in Golden State,” co-host of 92.3 Cleveland’s “Baskin & Phelps” Andy Baskin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think that’s the problem. No one is sitting around looking at the East and saying, ‘What are the Cavs doing to be better than Golden State?’ You can’t play that game. Golden State is going to have a rough road to get to the Finals. Golden State is playing great right now. If they handed out a championship today, I’ll be the first guy to say, ‘Man, they earned that trophy.’ But it’s not. And you know LeBron’s got another gear. You know LeBron’s got two other gears. They need Tristan (Thompson) to start playing. They need guys to step up so LeBron doesn’t have to do everything. I think that’s what the problem here is.”
The Cavs beat the Pacers, 100-96, on Monday. Kyrie Irving took fewer shots than James, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, hit all 11 of his free throws and finished with 22 points and a team-high six assists.
That was a welcome change for Irving, who had taken 20+ shots in five of his previous nine games.
“Kyrie has got to figure out what kind of guard he wants to be,” Baskin said. “Does he want to be a point guard who’s dishing the ball off like he did tonight making great plays to Tristan Thompson and Thompson is going to finish plays off, or are they going to sit back and watch and let LeBron do everything himself?”
James finished with 33 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals after getting an off day Sunday. James shot 14-of-22 from the floor, which made up for off-nights by Love and Smith, who both shot 4-of-14 from the floor, and Iman Shumpert, who shot 0-of-6.
“LeBron got pretty mad tonight,” Baskin said. “He was screaming in the huddle again. Those guys have to step up. They got to realize they’re getting paid – getting paid big time – and they better be leaders. I think that’s where the frustration is.”
The Cavs have a rematch with the Wizards (29-30) this Friday in Cleveland at 8 p.m. ET.