CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - I admit it. I cannot figure the Cavaliers out.
It took me 74 games to get to this point of bewilderment. Through the first 70, I felt very good about 'em. Blown leads, losses to banged-up teams, inconsistencies at both ends of the court...those issues never steered me away from my conviction that they're the best team in the East, will likely play the Warriors again in the Finals, and have a legit shot to upset the best team in the NBA.
And even now, as I write this, I wouldn't bet against them returning to the Finals, if only because they have LeBron, and beating LeBron four times in a series is something only three teams have done since 2011.
That said, there's something missing from the Cavaliers. They insist it's not chemistry, but there are times during a game when they look like five guys who met on the way to the gym.
Of course, there are many other times when they're clearly in sync, the "ball has energy" (as Kevin Love put it recently) and they seem unbeatable. More than that, their body language and excitable reactions during those high moments dispel the notion that this is a group of men who aren't particularly close.
Which brings me back to LeBron, who was part spectator/part coach on Tuesday night, sitting out against the Rockets but jumping up to lead the huddle during a time-out, and wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Naturally, some in the national media scorched him for this, saying he overshadowed head coach Tyronn Lue, but Lue's a bright guy, and a bright guy would want the best basketball mind on the team involved, not silent in a corner.
So maybe the issue is consistency. Maybe we see the fire on some nights, and we miss it on others. Maybe it sounds a bit flippant for Kyrie Irving to brush off Tuesday's 20-point collapse by ending his postgame comments with "we'll be all right, though," as though there's truly nothing alarming about squandering a 20-point lead for the second time in two weeks.
But I know this: it's dangerous for any team, even one as talented as the Cavaliers, to simply assume that issues and inconsistencies go away once the playoffs start and you 'lock in'. I've covered too many teams in too many sports who could teach a lesson on that mistake.
Would I bet against 'em making another run to the Finals? No way. They're that good.
But unless things improve dramatically down the final, two-week stretch, I don't know many who feel as strongly about the Cavs' chances this year as they did a year ago.
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