Five Problems the Cleveland Cavaliers Need to Address Before Playoffs Begin

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Washington. James did not play. The Wizards won 113-99. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

With seemingly every loss this season, somebody somewhere has suggested that it’s time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to push the panic button.

Thursday night’s fourth-quarter collapse at Brooklyn against a team already with more than 50 defeats can’t simply be shrugged off as one of those things that happens toward the end of an 82-game grind. But as humiliating as the outcome was, the Cavs still went into the weekend with the top record in the Eastern Conference and the third-best mark overall.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems which ought to be addressed before the playoffs commence next month. Some have been allowed to fester for most or all of the season. Some are more recent developments. And one has become sort of the elephant in the room which you’re damned if you do discuss and damned if you don’t.

So let’s take a clear, calm and rational look at what LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and company can do in the weeks ahead to help avoid postseason disappointment:

1. Restraint on the Threes, Please


Yes, there was the 10-for-38 abomination against the Nets, as well as a 10-for-42 outing in a loss at Utah which prevented the Cavs from going 4-0 on a road trip earlier this month. But their record this season is 4-1 when attempting at least 40 three-pointers in a game, 12-3 when taking 34 or more, and 20-3 when making at least 12.

That being said, look at the list of teams which they have beaten while shooting 30 percent or worse from long range: Sacramento, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York (three times), Miami, Houston and Denver. Except for the Miami Heat, none of them are a certainty to be around when the regular season concludes.

What was most inexcusable about their losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz is that while the Cavs were taking 80 three-point attempts, they shot a combined 15 free throws. You don’t want to take away what makes Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and Channing Frye valuable, but with both James and Irving continuing to struggle from that distance, trying to impersonate the Golden State Warriors might not always be a wise course of action.

Next: Defense, Defense, Defense

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Ken Hornack is a longtime NBA sports journalist. Before covering the Orlando Magic for the Daytona Beach News-Journal and, the native of the Cleveland area got his foot in the door with the Cavaliers during the Tom Nissalke coaching era and will forever associate his senior year of high school with the Miracle of Richfield. You can follow him @Ken_Hornack.