Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Relive the Warriors-Cavs matchup
> They lead the East, but in a five-day span they lost a close one to the Spurs on the road, then got blown out by the Warriors at home. What do you make of these Cleveland Cavaliers halfway through the season?
David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Something’s amiss in the Land. It’s a combination of things, I think, but at the base the issue is how to be the defensive-based team that blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring and dismantled a 60-win Atlanta team in the conference finals while integrating the offense-first Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into the mix. The Cavs played championship-level defense in the postseason, but couldn’t score enough, as evidenced by the load LeBron James had to carry in The Finals. They’re going to be very good offensively once Irving is back at full speed, but can he and Love defend their positions well enough to beat elite teams? Not putting Monday’s beatdown by the Warriors all on those two, but clearly, Cleveland had no concept as a team of how to stop Golden State. Who does Irving guard? Stephen Curry? Nope. Klay Thompson? Maybe David Blatt puts him on Andrew Bogut, and I’m not kidding. But it’s going to be a question against the best teams, and those are the teams the Cavs have struggled to beat this season.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Cavaliers are good enough and not good enough. They’re good enough to get past any rough patches, good enough to essentially control the East and good enough to get back to the Finals without too much angst or sweat. But they’re not good enough to beat Golden State or San Antonio in seven games, not yet, not as currently constituted. J.R. Smith is too erratic on and off the court to be relied upon to the degree Cleveland does, they need more outside shooting as it is and they’re almost starting over in cracking the LeBron James–Kyrie Irving–Kevin Love code. They have lots on their plates for the final three months.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: They’re fine. Not perfect. Not the team to beat. But the Cavaliers are still the favorite in the East and, if you want the real perspective, in much better shape than a year ago as doubt flew in every direction and coach David Blatt was supposedly on the hot seat. You know, before they got to The Finals and then to a Game 6 without two of their best players for most or all of the series.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I think the Cavs are fortunate to play in the East, and that all they need to do is win the conference, which last I checked doesn’t go through Oakland or San Antonio. Unless my math is wrong, that puts them in The Finals, right? Look, past history has proven that whatever happens in the regular season (losses to certain teams) often carries little weight in the post-season. Cleveland is fine, in the big picture. There’s a lot of basketball left to find a groove and seek answers.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They’ve improved defensively and rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor, which is where they need to be. But yeah, that top-10 defense obviously didn’t hold up against the league’s best offense (Golden State), and their offense struggled against the league’s best defense (San Antonio). The Cavs could probably win the East in their sleep, but the Warriors and Spurs are playing like two of the best teams of all-time. The Cavs could wait to flip the switch in the postseason, but now would be a good time to play with some urgency, not let bad teams hang around through three quarters, and see if they can’t match the Spurs’ and Warriors’ point differential for a few weeks.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: They strike me as a team that is well aware that they are ill-equipped to handle either the Spurs or Warriors in a seven-game series right now. That narrative about a healthy Cavaliers team surely being able to finish what they started in The Finals against the Warriors seems a bit hollow to me now. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would have made a huge difference, but I don’t know that they would have been the difference between winning and losing. And the Spurs and Warriors have taken it up a few notches since last season while the Cavaliers clearly have not. I think it’s a good thing, actually, because now the Cavaliers can assess exactly what they are and make whatever adjustments, tweaks and or trades necessary.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Let’s acknowledge that they’ve been without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert for most of this season. But let’s also not dismiss the impression that they entered this year behaving as if they were de facto champs – as if convinced they would have won the NBA Finals if not for their injuries. If so, then they are learning is that it’s going to require more than talent and depth and potential. Instead of seeing them express the arrogance and indiscipline that led to their blowout loss to the real champions, maybe we’ll see the Cavs approach the second half of the year with humility – which is their only hope.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure what to make of them. Sure, they’re 28-11 and own the best record in the Eastern Conference. But LeBron’s wavering 3-point shooting numbers are at least mildly troubling to me, and while I know one game out of 82 can be viewed as an aberration, getting blown out at home by the Warriors is not ideal. I know the Cavs went all-in financially on this group of players, but I think they could still use an athletic 2/3 type who can hit 3-pointers and play defense. Things aren’t perfect right now, and the good news is that right now, they don’t have to be perfect. The question is whether things will get right by the time the playoffs roll around.