Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not a time to panic

So the Cavs have lost three in a row on the heels of their franchise record-tying 13-game winning streak. Now the sky is falling, Mo can't hit a shot, and the annual call for Mike Brown's head has begun. We are certainly spoiled by this team's winning ways. Were the last three losses fun to watch? Of course not. The team has drifted from its defensive principles and just coasted for long stretches. But closer look at each loss might leave us all feeling a little better...

Last Thursday: 118-116 OT loss to Denver. Your classic "giveaway" game by the Cavaliers. They've been skating on thin ice for a while now at the free throw line and this time it finally bit them. 23-for-40 from the stripe just isn't gonna win many games, regardless of the competition. The fact that they still had a chance to win this one until LeBron's shot at the buzzer rimmed out is actually quite baffling. Denver is a solid team, the Cavs were coming off a long All-Star break, Z was just traded, Antawn was still unavailable, and the Nuggets were surely rallying around George Karl's announcement that he's once again battling cancer. Not surprisingly, the 118 points is the most the Cavs have surrendered so far this season. What makes this loss doubly frustrating is the fact that the Cavs also gave one away earlier in the season to the Camelo-less Nuggets in Denver.

Last Friday: 110-93 loss in Charlotte. This was a scheduling nightmare. A long, late national TV game at home the previous night followed by the 7:00pm start against the much-improved Bobcats. The Cavs had a bad shooting night (39%), played bad defense (55% shooting for Chalotte), and really were embarrassed by a hungrier Bobcats team. Now the chatter is that this would be a horrific matchup should these teams meet in the first round of the playoffs. I'm not ready to think that far ahead just yet, but let's try to not blow this loss out of proportion. It was Antawn Jamison's first game in a Cavs uniform and he clearly was nervous, as his 0-for-12 shooting night should illustrate. The Bobcats are truly a perplexing team... they follow this one up with a loss to the Bucks, then a loss to the Clippers. Go figure.

Sunday: 101-95 loss in Orlando. We knew this one would be tough going into it. The Cavs had beaten Orlando twice already this season. The Shaq/Dwight Howard war-of-words was escalating. Orlando would be ready for this national TV matchup. Their hot-shooting 4th quarter is what did the Cavs in as they outscored Cleveland 27-20 in the final 12 minutes. Encouraging things to take away from this one were Antawn's first solid performance as a Cavalier - 19 points and 8 rebounds, before fouling out on some terrible calls - and Shaq's nice offensive performance (20 points on 9-for-10 shooting). Foul trouble ultimately killed the Cavs as Shaq was also strapped with 5 fouls. It still kills me that Howard seems to get away with most everything, yet Shaq is whistled for any sort of contact. This will likely be the matchup again in the Eastern Conference Finals, so it was nice to get a preview of how things now look with the new line-up for the Cavs. We play this guys one more time in April at the Q and I'll be looking forward to that one as things should be more stable by then.

Also, keep in mind the Cavs had not had a practice with a healthy Mo in a month. And Z is gone from the locker room and the rotation (at least for the next 25 days or so, wink, wink). And the Cavs are now trying to shuffle their lineup with Mo and Antawn in the mix and Leon Powe soon to follow. My point is that Mike Brown is juggling a lot of moving parts right now. And the goal is not to be peaking in February, but in April and beyond. The Cavs have 25 games left to get things running smoothly and soon this 3-game skid will be forgotten. Enjoy the rest of this season and try to keep the big picture in mind. The team will look to get things back on track tonight at the Q vs. the Hornets. I don't expect to be writing about a 4th consecutive loss here tomorrow. But even if I have to, remember to take a deep breath and relax fellow Cavs fans. It's a long season, and titles aren't won in February.

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