For a team that is supposed to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title, Cleveland is not looking like the second best team in the league.
The Cavaliers have lost six of its last nine games and despite assurances from coaches and players that this is a temporary bump in the road fans are starting to wonder if they can make a return to the finals.
Las Vegas sports books have also taken notice. They recently raised the team’s odds to win the 2018 championship. The club opened at 5-2, second behind the defending champion Golden State, but are now at 4-1.
The Warriors are going the opposite direction. They went from 5-8 to 5-12.
During the current losing streak they have been atrocious against the spread. In those nine games they are 1-8 ATS. They were favored in seven of the nine contests and lost straight up in eight of them.
Weaknesses Glaring in Minnesota Loss
The most recent defeat was the most eye opening. Cleveland traveled to Minnesota and got walloped, 127-99. It was the second consecutive game they have given up 127 points and against the Timberwolves they were down by 27 at halftime.
Superstar LeBron James was held to just 10 points, his lowest point total since October of 2007. Three of the highest scoring players from that game came from the bench.
Guard Isaiah Thomas, who came from rival Boston in the offseason, told reporters after the game the team isn’t overly concerned.
“There’s going to be nights like this. I know that, I’ve been in the league seven years so I know these types of nights,” he said. “But we’ve just got to have better energy.”
The only problem is the team seems to be having those nights more frequently. They had a similar streak in October where they lost four straight. Two of those defeats they were favored by 10 points.
Rivals Gaining Ground
The team has had lulls before. In the last three years they experienced poor play but still reached the NBA Finals, winning in 2016. But the team is the oldest in the league and practices aren’t as frequent as other squads so to save wear and tear on the athletes.
Rivals may be able to exploit that. The Boston Celtics, who are the Cavaliers main adversary in the Eastern Conference currently have a better record. They are 33-10, 5 ½ games better than Cleveland. Toronto has become the surprise of the league. They too are above the Cavaliers, 2 ½ games better.
The two have seen their NBA Title odds drop in recent weeks. The Celtics went from 15-1 to 10-1 and the Raptors started at 60-1 and are now 50-1.
Cleveland is still the favorite to win the East at 5-7, but if they finish third in the conference will not have home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs.
With a convincing 102-88 road loss to the Celtics a week ago and another test away from home Thursday against Toronto, they might be answering questions about their playoff chances five months early.