Why are the Cavs struggling? It's all in the fundamentals

The Cavaliers have dropped 6 of their last 8 games, mainly due to a failure to do the "little things" well. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

The Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be stuck in a bit of a rut. For the first time since March 2011, LeBron James has lost six games in an eight-game stretch.

The problem certainly isn't LeBron

Over his past six games, LeBron is performing essentially to his season average, if not slightly better, as noted by the chart below. In fact, LeBron has triple-doubles in back-to-back games for the first time since March 2009 (and the fourth time in his career).

A word of caution to Cleveland: LeBron's minutes might become an issue. In his past three games, James has played 133 minutes. It's the first time in almost eight years that he has played at least 43 minutes in three straight games. March 2009, when James was 24 years old, was the last time this happened.

Failing to do the little things correctly

A look into Cleveland's struggles reveals a problem doing the "little things" well. What are those things?

Play solid defense without fouling

In these eight games, the Cavaliers are allowing 8.5 more points per game than they did in their first 36 games. Cleveland has averaged 20.1 fouls per game, compared to 17.8 prior to this stretch. As a result, Cavaliers opponents are scoring two more points per game at the foul line than they did in their first 36 games.

Make free throws

Cleveland has made just 70.3 percent of its free throw attempts during this stretch. The Cavaliers had made 76.1 percent prior. Even though the Cavs are averaging nearly the same number of free throw attempts per game during this stretch, they are scoring 1.5 fewer points per game at the charity stripe because of their reduced free throw percentage.

Take care of the ball

The Cavaliers have averaged 15.1 turnovers per game in their past eight games, up from 13.7 prior. Naturally, their opponents are scoring 1.2 more points per game off turnovers during this stretch.

This all culminates in an inferior product. In their past eight games, the Cavaliers rank 21st in the league in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive efficiency. Entering the stretch, they were fifth and 15th, respectively.

Looking ahead

Even with this sluggish stretch, the Cavaliers have a three-game lead for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and the only team in the conference with a better points differential is the Toronto Raptors.

Cleveland's next game is an ideal opportunity to bounce back. The Cavaliers host the Nets on Friday. Brooklyn has six fewer wins than any other team in the NBA.