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Cavaliers showing some cracks in the armor

Photo Credit: BleacherReport.com

Photo Credit: BleacherReport.com

Nobody thought things were going to come easy for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. Even with LeBron James returning and Kevin Love coming over in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the general consensus was that there were going to be some growing pains along the way. It happened in Miami when James teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so surely it would happen when James teamed up with Love, Kyrie Irving and a first-year head coach in David Blatt.

Sure enough, the Cavaliers started 5-7 and suffered some hideous losses. James struggled on both ends of the floor relative to past performance, and the defense in general was a mess. Still, this was somewhat expected, and Cleveland followed up that rough start with an eight-game winning streak.

But since the eight-game winning streak, more problems have cropped up. Starting center Anderson Varejao went down for the year with a torn Achilles. Love has been mired in a slump and was benched in the fourth quarter during a tighter-than-expected victory over the Orlando Magic. Irving is dealing with a knee injury.

And now the latest report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has revealed some concern about Blatt’s ability to get the team to buy in to his system. This report comes on the heels of an embarrassing 103-80 home loss to the dreadful Detroit Pistons.

Blatt denied the sentiment that he wasn’t getting through to his team, as did James and Irving. They can say that all they want, but things don’t look good right now. The defense remains porous, and the offense hasn’t been playing quite up to its standards over the last 10 games.

Despite all these issues, it’s too early to dismiss the Cavaliers, and it would be a panic move to fire Blatt. Cleveland is still 18-12 and comfortably in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, so it’s not like the situation is a total disaster. There’s plenty of improvements that can be made, and getting more out of Love is a good start. The All-Star power forward is shooting just 43.4 percent overall and 33.8 percent from three on the year, numbers that are well below his career marks. Not to mention he has had plenty of issues on defense.

There are personnel problems on the defensive end that may not be entirely fixable, but better effort could at least alleviate some of those woes. The Cavaliers also have a trade exception worth over $5 million that could be used to bring in defensive help, preferably in the form of a big man.

The way it stands, it’s tough to see Cleveland beating its top competition in the East in a postseason series. But Vegas still believes in the Cavaliers, as their 15/4 odds to win the 2015 NBA title are the best in the league, according to Bovada. While that doesn’t seem like a great play at the moment, it could be in another few months after the talent has more time to mesh.

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