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LeBron James on Cavaliers’ slide: “We all have to be held accountable”

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 3: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during he first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 3, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Call it their annual mid-season malaise. Try to spin it that they won 18-of-19 at one point (against a soft part of the schedule, but still). Say that they just don’t care about the regular season but will flip the switch when it matters.

Whatever you want to say about the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have not looked like a contender this season. Yes, they are 26-15 overall, but just 3-7 in their last 10. They have the second-worst defense in the NBA (the worst over the past 10 games) and that came to a head Thursday night when they looked disinterested in a blowout loss to the Raptors.

LeBron James tried to exhort teammates on the sideline during the game, and afterward told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports the Cavaliers’ players need to look in the mirror.

“We all have to be held accountable,” James said later at his locker. “How hard we play. How much effort we play with. I’m trying to hold everyone accountable.”

“I don’t play with my words,” James said late Thursday. “We can’t play around on the court.”

The Cavaliers have been building bad habits this season, particularly defensively, and after the game coach Tyronn Lue said the team needed to be playing without personal agendas. He wouldn’t elaborate, but this has not looked like a group putting team first.

The Cavaliers may look vulnerable, but they have LeBron and that makes them the team to beat in the Eastern Conference — he has been to the Finals seven years in a row for a reason. His ability to lift up his game and those around him is unquestioned now. This core group has been to the Finals the last three years (with the notable change of Kyrie Irving going out and Isaiah Thomas coming in) and knows what it takes.

Still, it’s hard to watch the Cavaliers play of the last couple of weeks and think “contender.” They need to do some soul searching and find their better selves sooner rather than later and start to build good habits, because as it looks now the Cavs will get these Raptors in the second round, and Toronto is legit.