CLEVELAND, Ohio — On Monday night, after the Cleveland Cavaliers got crushed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, their title chances actually got a surprising boost with Alabama winning college football’s national championship, a bizarre and inexplicable correlation with LeBron James. Too bad that’s football and nothing but a happy coincidence.
Meanwhile, when it comes to basketball, many factors are starting to point in the other direction.
The Cavs got clubbed for the second straight game on Thursday night, losing to the Toronto Raptors, 133-99. And while it’s only January and there’s plenty of time for the Cavs to snap out of their recent funk, history is now working against them when it comes to winning a championship.
No team has gone on to win a title after losing back-to-back games by at least 25 points during the season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2018
According to Elias Sports, no team has won an NBA title after losing back-to-back games by at least 25 points at any point during the regular season.
That’s where the Cavs are now, looking to defy history. They lost by 28 to the Timberwolves a few days ago. Then, following a film session and what was termed a great practice in Toronto, the Cavs were blown out again Thursday night, losing to the short-handed Raptors by 34 points.
Defensive issues have been at the center of the struggles. The reigning Eastern Conference champs allowed the Raptors to reach the 30-point mark in all four quarters. The T’Wolves hit that number in three of the four, only missing it in the fourth after emptying the bench Monday.
On the season, the Cavs rank 29th in defensive rating, just mere percentage points from sitting in dead last. That’s another area where history is working against them.
Since 1978, the average rank for a team in terms of defensive rating is 5.1. For the runner up it’s 7.3. The last team to finish outside the top 10 and still win the championship was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who finished 21st that year in the regular season before cranking up the intensity in the playoffs.
The Lakers and the Rockets (12th in 1995) are the only two teams in league history to accomplish that mighty feat. After all, the old adage is “defense wins championships.” And none of those teams had to face the loaded Golden State Warriors in the Finals (probably).
With LeBron James anything is possible. Heck, his Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 series deficit for the first time ever in the NBA Finals to win in 2016. But it took a long list of circumstances. Even for James, a player with a knack for rewriting record books, hoisting this year’s trophy certainly looks like an even more daunting task than usual.
“I just live by the code that if you’re winning, it’s good and it feels good. It’s ebb and flow. Never get too high, never get too low,” Veteran Dwyane Wade told reporters in Toronto. “You lose by 1 point, you lose by 25 points, it’s a loss. You win by 25, you win by 1, it’s a win.”
Only in this case, losing by at least 25 in back-to-back games has meant much more than a few marks in the loss column.