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The Cleveland Roller Coaster is Alive and Well for the Cavaliers

December 27th, 2013 at 6:40 PM
By Pat Murphy

'Kyrie Irving Jumpshot' photo (c) 2013, Erik Drost - license: Those that are Cleveland sports fans have been through this ride before. It's not a fun ride, not one you want to go back to but for some reason you do. You remain a loyal fan despite getting emotionally thrown around by your team time after time.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are not letting anyone down this year, if your expectations stuck to the script of Cleveland sports.

Unfortunately, may fans had high expectations for this team. With their young core, high draft picks, and free agent acquisitions, the Cavaliers were expected to contend in what was expected – and what is – a weak Eastern Conference in the NBA. Per usual, they are letting those fans down.

After Thursday's double overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Wine and Gold sit in the 10th spot in the East with a record of 10-18. They are behind the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls, the complete rebuild mode Boston Celtics, and the Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and Charlotte Bobcats – teams that most fans would struggle to name a player.

In typical Cleveland fashion, this season has followed the course. There have been moments of brilliants for the Cavaliers, moments where there appeared to be real promise with this team. One does not have to look far for evidence of this, just as far as earlier this month.

To start December, the Cavs won four of five games, including a three-game winning streak. They followed that with two losses, but they showed heart and ability in competing with two of the NBA's best teams and taking them to the wire.

That was the ascent. The good teams keep the upward trajectory going for most of the season, with a few possible bumps along the way, and hope to peak at the right time. Not in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers have now lost three in a row and are on the verge of having their second-straight losing month in the first three months of the season.

It is not just the team that has been up and down, but the players as well.

Despite poor records the last two seasons, Cavs fans have grown accustomed to high level of play from point guard Kyrie Irving, but even he has been up and down this season.

Irving has had nights where he produces the numbers expected of an NBA superstar. He scored 40 points and had nine assists against Atlanta. He's also had 41, 39, and 37 point nights this year. Sadly, there have been awful nights for Irving as well, including being held to 15 points or under six times this season including his first career scoreless game.

On top of this, Irving has not shot well many nights this season. For a player who previously scored easily at the basket, teams have been able to make the guard less efficient this year. He is shooting a career-worst 42% from the field, well below his career average of 45%.

Another issue has been the inconsistent play of center Andrew Bynum. Bynum was the prize free agent signing for the Cavaliers this offseason and many thought if he could get healthy, this would be a dangerous team. The 7-footer has had issues this year, but injuries have not been one of them.

Bynum is averaging his worst scoring season since his second year in the NBA. His rebounds are lower than any year other than his rookie season, as are his blocks per game.

Like Irving, Bynum has been his own roller coaster ride. He has been held scoreless once already this year, he has more than twice the number of games under five points than he's had over 15.

Most importantly, Bynum has not been a consistent presence on the defensive end. This is the side of the ball Cleveland believed Bynum would help the most. Even while getting used to his teammates, he could play defense and bring his offense along slowly. This has not happened as the big man has often looked disengaged defensively.

With two potential All-Stars having up-and-down seasons, it is easy to understand why the Cavaliers are on the ride they have been. What isn't as easily explainable is why the players aren't able to play at their normal levels this season and how this always happens to Cleveland.

Blame it on a curse, poor coaching, bored players. The cycle always seems to be the same.

Tags: Andrew Bynum, Atlanta Hawks, Basketball, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA, Toronto Raptors

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