The 2017 NBA Playoffs are approaching, but the reigning champions Cleveland Cavaliers may not be in fighting form yet as they suffered another tough defeat Friday. An almost complete Cavaliers squad was beaten at the Quicken Loans Arena by the short-handed Atlanta Hawks, 114-100.
Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and Dwight Howard, all regular starters for the Hawks, did not see action in the contest. Millsap, Schroder, and Howard were rested while Bazemore may have been given a day off since he is nursing a bruised knee bone.
Unfortunately, the Cavaliers failed to capitalize on this and ended up losing by double-digits, which was surprising. Head coach Tyronn Lue was disappointed with the way they played and said they might have underestimated Atlanta. He aired his thoughts following the game, the Associated Press reported.
“Obviously a bad performance. To beat Boston and have the game that we had and to come back and not validate it against a team that didn’t even play their guys. I didn’t think we respected them tonight. I thought we thought we’d just mess around with the game until it was time to knuckle down,” Lue explained.
Lue continued by saying the Cavaliers, this season, are allowing teams to gain confidence. He also stated that these games “come back and bite” in the long run, which is bad for them as they aim for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Only four players scored in double-digits for the Cavaliers. Leading the pack was franchise superstar LeBron James who had 27 points, that came with eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. Joining him were point guard Kyrie Irving (18), center Channing Frye (16), and forward Kevin Love (15).
For the Hawks, it was Tim Hardaway, Jr. who emerged as he tallied 22 points. Helping him on offense was a player who started the current NBA year suiting up for Cleveland, Mike Dunleavy. The 36-year-old veteran contributed 20 off the bench.
After the game, Cleveland still leads the East with its 51-28 record. However, they are just a game away from the Boston Celtics (50-29), who momentarily had the No. 1 spot recently. Meanwhile, the Hawks now won back-to-back and is 5th at 41-38.
To some, this loss is not a major concern for Cleveland since it is just the regular season. The real test lies in the 2017 NBA playoffs later this month. But as of late, the Cavaliers are exerting less effort and their defense appears a weakness. If they cannot resolve these issues soon, new champions might be crowned in June.
This was discussed by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. In his report that tackled the Cavaliers’ failure to inch closer to locking the top seed in the East, he suggested that these defeats are the ones that have long-term negative effects on the NBA champs’ present campaign. He also wrote that these setbacks, seen as mere regular season losses, prevent Cleveland from accomplishing its goal of having rest ahead of the NBA playoffs.
On April 15, the 2017 NBA Playoffs will begin. If the Cavaliers hope to have a successful title defense, they must get their act together very soon.
The Hawks and the Celtics are among the teams in the East that showed they can give the Cavaliers a run for their money in this year’s NBA Playoffs. They are not alone as the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors are looking great as well heading to the next round of the competition.
Cleveland has only three games left on its schedule, although it does not get easier. The Cavaliers will still need to take on the Hawks, Miami Heat, and the Toronto Raptors before the NBA Playoffs.
[Featured Image by Tony Dejak/AP Images]