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Tyronn Lue says Cleveland Cavaliers are still going to make playoffs


ORLANDO — The Cleveland Cavaliers‘ extended slump — 12 losses in their last 18 games, including Saturday’s 120-88 embarrassment against the Houston Rockets — has hurt the Cavs so much that they’re closer to being out of the playoffs than they are to being the Eastern Conference’s top seed.

Coming into Monday, Cleveland trailed the Boston Celtics — No. 1 in the East — by 7½ games while only leading the No. 9-seeded Detroit Pistons by 5 games.

Have things gotten so bad for the Cavs that their string of three consecutive NBA Finals could be broken by missing the postseason completely?

“I mean we’re still going to make the playoffs,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said after practice Monday. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re still confident in that for sure.”

Lue raised an eyebrow at the question even being brought up; however, it’s hard to argue it being a worthy talking point after seeing Cleveland drop its last eight straight nationally televised games while playing a brand of defense so porous that its allowed the opponent to score 118 points or more eight times since Dec. 19.

“It’s too early for that, but, I don’t think we’ll be knocked out of (making) the playoffs,” Lue said.

The Cavs are 30-21 with 31 games left to play.

LeBron James was asked if the playoffs are still a “given” despite his team’s recent woes.

“I would hope so,” James said. “I don’t think anybody’s here not to make the playoffs.”

Does anyone in his locker room realize how precarious the Cavs’ place in the playoff seeding has become because of their poor play of late?

“I would hope not,” James said.

With the trade deadline just three days away, Lue said he has no drastic lineup changes planned for Tuesday’s game against the Orlando Magic and Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“See what we have and see what happens, so, right now just got to stay with where we’re at right now and just play better,” Lue said.

The Cavs used Monday’s practice to concentrate on shooting — they shot just 39.1 percent as a team against Houston, including 8-for-30 from 3 (26.7 percent) — and also defensive principles.

“Just concentrate more on defense,” Lue said. “I think when we get a chance to walk through and do stuff defensively, we’ve got to continue to keep doing like we’ve been doing all year. Just got to keep getting better at that.”

Lue said he saw ESPN’s report over the weekend on TV that cited a top Cavs official as saying that the coach’s job is not in jeopardy, but he did not pay it much mind.

“That’s not my focus,” Lue said. “My focus is to try to get the guys to win and playing better. That’s my focus, and after that, whatever happens, happens.”

James said the Cavs have to look at the opportunity in front of them, rather than the disappointment behind them.

“We prepare, we’ll be professional and we go out and play,” he said. “At the end of the day as bad as it’s looked of late, we’re still in a good position where we can play some good basketball going into the (All-Star) break and we want to try to control that.”



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