CLEVELAND – After one of the most inept defensive performances of the Cleveland Cavaliers' season, LeBron James said his team looked set for a brief postseason appearance, barring changes.
The Cavs dropped 148-124 against Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, tying a franchise record for most of the points allowed in the regulation. They have a 3-9 mark since Christmas Day.
"Playoffs? We can not even start thinking about that, not the way we're playing right now," James said. "We could easily bounce back in the playoffs if they started next weekend, we have not even started thinking about the postseason."
The Thunder hung 148 points in the Cavaliers and prevented LeBron James from reaching the 30,000-point milestone.
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What James was thinking was the defensive effort of his team, as he says, he has never seen.
"Never in my basketball life did I leave 148 points, not even playing video games," said James. "They got everything they wanted, inside, outside, they moved … It's a really bad loss, really bad on our part."
It's the loss accumulation of the Cavs that is most disturbing, leaving a team that comes from three consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals sounding baffled. When James was asked to identify the No. 1 problem Cleveland faced, all he could do was laugh at his team's situation.
"That's too difficult," James said. "We have a lot of things at stake, it's not 1, it's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We have a bit of searching to discover how we can be better."
A potential change James said he does not agree with that Cleveland let go of head coach Tyronn Lue in response to the team's recent downfall.
"I hope not," said James. "But I really do not know, I do not know what's going to happen to our team, I have no idea what conversations have been going on, personally, I've tried to stay as sharp as possible to keep my guys ready to go out and play. It has resulted in victories, but I have to keep mentally as fresh as possible with the difficulties, I can worry about the values of work and exchanges and things of that nature, I just stay as focused as I can every night to go out and compete and try to help us win ball games. "
Cavs guard JR Smith said that Lue and his coaching staff are not to blame.
"I mean, you can not go out and play for us," Smith told ESPN when asked about the staff's effectiveness. "If they come up with the schemes and we execute those schemes to a" T "and we keep losing at a moment and at a certain moment, they can make adjustments, but we're not running offensively or defensively."
Lue defended the ability of his staff to connect with his players.
"I think so," said Lue. "I think sometimes it's based on confrontations, it's difficult, there's a lot of fighting on the court, but they respond, we do not give up and we do not give up, so that's not a problem at all, it would not be the case."
James said that it was up to him to find a way to turn the season around.
"I can not break," he said. "I'm the last one that can break at this point, I'm the leader of this team, fortunately we can get some victories, and that definitely helps, but I'm going to stay as positive as I can, guys know me, patience has not always been something to me, but knowing the rough patch we're in right now, that's what I'm going to give this team, just stay positive. "
The Cavs have practiced on Sunday, becoming a rare week in which they will practice three times, and Lue said that he will reserve his comments to his team until then, when they have their filming session.
Meanwhile, Cleveland players are going to celebrate another irretrievable loss on national television on Saturday night.
"It's embarrassing," said Isaiah Thomas. "It's not acceptable, we can only get up from here, that's the only positive thing about that, we have to look in the mirror, look at ourselves and feel proud"
asked to compare the Cavs with their former team, Thomas said that the Boston Celtics "were simply a better defensive team."
"We played a lot harder," Thomas said about the Celtics, "and we have the guys to do that on this team to do it and really hold on to that end, we really have to trust each other on that end , and that's the most important thing in the defense is to trust the next guy who turned his back on him, and that guy who helps trust the next guy after who has the backend.
"I think we do not trust that end. the one on the other, and that has to change. "
The next six opponents of the Cavs, starting on Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs, all have .500 or better records.
" I'm sure that everyone handles it in their own way, "said Dwyane Wade." Some could handle it with a couple of bottles of wine, some can handle it in other ways. But only speaking in my name as a competitor, these times suck. These are the times that do everything else, you understand the importance of winning games, you understand how difficult it is to win championships. It makes you appreciate things when you go through difficult times. "
Navigating through those difficult times, says Wade, will involve awkward conversations.
" I think the most important thing that can happen is that no one can be sensitive to what is necessary. "Wade said." There are (for example) 13 things that are wrong and the coach decides to point to one thing and you are the one who points, you can not be sensitive to that. You must understand that you can be better and that this can be done better. We have to take responsibility. I think we want it because we want to win. We are looking for it. So I hope that in these coming weeks before the All-Star break we can start being more responsible with ourselves and this team and playing a little better. "
As bad as things are for the Cavs, James says his only option is to focus on improving.
"I just want to keep working on habits," James said. "I'm here to improve." I want to improve, we're in a difficult situation right now, but we'll get better. To be worse, we could be 15th in the East or out of the image of the playoffs, we still have to go back to what we do and we will solve it, I am not here to seek compassion for what we are trying to do. We do not feel sorry for us either, I want us to improve. "