Despite LeBron James’ best efforts Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were easily brushed aside by the Brooklyn Nets. The final scoreboard read 104-95, but the gap between the two clubs felt like it was a mile wide after James’ teammates laid an egg in the embarrassing loss.
Brooklyn is hardly a powerhouse these days, entering the contest with a dismal record of 19-51. But the Nets bullied the defending Eastern Conference champs with ease in the fourth quarter, dominating the final stanza and doubling up the Cavaliers.
After the contest, James, who was stellar, was visibly upset by the lack of fire he saw from his teammates and was obviously upset with the outcome: “Tonight we took a step backwards and we can’t afford to do that late in the season like this,” he said, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com.
James isn’t wrong.
Watching teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs ramp up their efforts for a postseason run in the west, along with the Toronto Raptors (just two games behind) pushing in their own conference, it’s clear the Cavaliers are headed the wrong way at the wrong time.
It’s not so much about records at this point, either. It’s about attitude. And right now, James isn’t seeing the fire he needs to see from his teammates at this critical juncture.
James explained his current mindset after the difficult loss.
“I started my postseason mindset a little early this year, understanding everything we’ve been through this year both on and off the floor,” he said. “I just want these guys to understand how important this moment is. We have a great opportunity to do something special, at least compete for something special.”
But there wasn’t much of a competitive spirit flowing from Cleveland last night. And while it might be understandable that the team took an “easy” opponent lightly, it isn’t an acceptable development.
“What bothers me is our effort sometimes and making sure our guys are understanding the moment that we have,” James said. “And that’s the only time I can get a little frustrated because I understand the moment that we have and it’s not a given that every year you have a team like this where you have an opportunity to do something special.”
Head coach Tyronn Lue was disgusted by what he saw and doesn’t thing it’s going to get better without a changed mindset going forward: “If we don’t compete for 48 minutes, things like this will continue to happen,” he said.
Indeed, it’s going to be hard for the Cavaliers to “do something special” if the effort isn’t there.
Championships are built on the bedrock of desire, teamwork and kinship. Right now, the Cavaliers are not showing well on any of these fronts, and if something doesn’t change soon, nobody should be surprised if another team is representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this year while the Cavs watch from home.