INDEPENDENCE — Since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule in 1967-68, only seven teams have recorded fewer than 14 victories.
An NBA-worst 8-37, not to mention losers of 18 straight and 28 of their last 29 as they prepare to host the Denver Nuggets tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers are in danger of becoming the eighth.
On the positive side, if it can be called that, Cleveland is a pretty safe bet not to break or tie the league record for fewest victories in a season. It needs to win just two of its final 37 games to surpass the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished 9-73.
“Mentally, guys are holding up pretty well,” coach Byron Scott said Thursday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Physically is where we’re breaking down with all the injuries we have.
“From a mental standpoint, our guys are doing a pretty good job. They come in here every day with a good work ethic, a good attitude. That’s all we can ask.”
A few victories would certainly help the psyche of the Cavs, who will match the longest single-season losing streak in franchise history if they fall to the Nuggets tonight. Cleveland lost its last 19 games in 1981-82, then dropped its first five to start 1982-83 for an NBA-record 24-game losing streak.
The NBA record for consecutive losses in a season is 23, set by the 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies and matched by the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets.
The Cavs, who have dropped 22 straight road games and set a franchise record for fewest points scored (57) in their franchise-record 55-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, are in danger of becoming the first team in NBA history to go from having the best record in the league — Cleveland was 61-21 in 2009-10 — to the worst in back-to-back seasons.
The Cavs are also threatening to break the franchise record for fewest wins in a season. Cleveland needs to go 7-30 the rest of the way to match the 15 victories posted by the first-year expansion team in 1970-71 and duplicated by the 1981-82 club. Cleveland needs nine more wins to equal the 17 victories it posted in 2002-03, the season before LeBron James arrived.
“We’ll have a breakthrough,” Scott said. “I’m not looking at the number of losses. I’m looking at game-by-game to see if we’re improving at both ends of the floor.”
The Cavs have played a little better lately, most notably in a 103-101 loss in New Jersey on Monday, but their last 28 defeats have come by an average of 15.8 points.
“It’s a challenge,” veteran Anthony Parker said when asked about the players’ mental state. “We’ve unfortunately been hit with a lot of injuries on top of our struggles on the court. In certain areas, we’re making improvement. In others, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Now 0-13 in January after a 1-14 December, the Cavs are in danger of having the first winless month (minimum 10 games) in franchise history. After playing the Nuggets tonight, Cleveland closes January with games in Orlando (Sunday) and Miami (Monday).
Despite the bleak outlook and injuries to starters Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams, Scott is staying positive, especially around his players.
“Once they see me down, which they never will, they’re going to follow the leader,” he said. “I’ve always been positive.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.