February 7, 2018, 6:29 pm
It feels like every year the Cleveland Cavaliers go through the same story. The team starts to lose, LeBron James is unhappy, his teammates aren’t trying, the team is doomed, someone else will finally make the Finals, LeBron is going to walk at the end of the year and the Warriors are undisputed as NBA Champs.
Of course the Cavs have always bounced-back and caught fire at the right time, LeBron reverts back to form and plays like he is capable of, his teammates rebound, they find themselves in the Finals once more and LeBron re-signs for another year. The Warriors are still mostly undisputed.
Dare you say, is this the year where the Cavs don’t bounce-back? There’s been turmoil brewing for the Cavs seemingly forever, but even before these past few months it’s seemed to reach a near-boiling point.
Over the summer Kyrie Irving was traded for a package that included Isaiah Thomas, the coveted Nets’ first-round pick and others. Reports from credible sources surfaced that there was serious disconnect between Irving and his teammates.
The Cavs were also without an official General Manager for a chunk of the offseason after former GM David Griffin seemingly lost a power struggle with Owner Dan Gilbert over differences of the future of the team. LeBron was a significant backer of Griffin.
Of course there was the recent Kevin Love controversy, the Ty Lue controversy and, most recently, the reports of LeBron leaving this summer. There’s always been Love clashing with teammates controversy, and there’s always been coaching controversy, and LeBron has always had one foot out the door, until all of those haven’t or aren’t.
This time it feels different. That’s because the Cavs’ product on the court has actually been pretty bad. It’s been bad not just in a recent stretch, but all season it’s been mediocre at best.
In the win/loss column it looks like the Cavs are in solid shape. They’re sitting at 30-22, third place in the east, though 7.5 games out of first place.
However when examining closer a much different story is being told. The Cavs got off to a scorching start, going 23-8 through December 17. They were carried by LeBron and their offense in that span, ranking third in the NBA in offensive rating. Their defense was terrible though, ranking 27th in the NBA during that span.
Since that time the Cavs’ offense has fallen all the way to 20th in the NBA and the defense has gotten worse. They have a record of just 7-14 since December 17 and have faced all the recent controversy.
The feeling around Cleveland isn’t great at the moment, and the Celtics are starting to run away with the one-seed and look like the class of the conference.
Then again it’s never a good bet to count out the best player in the world.
Despite the poor play and the beat-down the team gave the Cavs in their last meeting, the Wolves aren’t counting out LeBron and company. This could be one of the final opportunities to top them while their down.
The Cavs are likely to be active ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. The team could look a lot different after this final matchup and the narrative could change. For now the spotlight is always on LeBron James.
– Jeff Teague vs. Isaiah Thomas
It has not been pretty for Thomas so far in his Cavs’ career. Thomas is still looking for his shot and his legs, while the team continues to pile up losses. This isn’t Thomas’ fault, just the baggage that comes with a team led by LeBron and the drama that surrounds it.
Of course Cleveland needs Thomas to figure things out as soon as possible and fill the hole left by Irving. Teague will have the responsibility of making sure that doesn’t happen tonight.
Even if Thomas starts to get going offensively, he’s still well behind on defense and Teague should be able to take advantage of this matchup by attacking the paint and the pick-and-roll at will.
Cleveland has been searching for answers at the point guard position all season, and the Wolves are well-stocked there so they should be able to dominate this positional-battle with a combination of Teague and Tyus Jones.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Isaiah Thomas – PG
J.R. Smith – SG
Jae Crowder – SF
LeBron James – PF
Tristan Thompson – C
Kevin Love (hand) – OUT
Dwyane Wade (illness) – OUT
Where to Watch:
8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North and ESPN