CLEVELAND: Final thoughts from the end of another brief winning streak...
* Byron Scott's job is safe. There is no disputing that, particularly now that the team is starting to play a little better. But everyone around the organization is getting restless with the lack of progress seen on defense.
* The Cavs are horrendous defensively. The Nuggets shot 50 percent again on Saturday, continuing a disturbing trend of opponents shooting 50 percent or better. The problems range from a lack of communication -- like when Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving both sank to the lane and left Ty Lawson wide open in the corner in the game's first two minutes -- to an inability to defend on pick-and-rolls.
* There just doesn't seem to be much of a defensive system. The next screen Irving gets through will be his first. He is getting pretty good at swatting the ball out of a dribbler's hand from behind, but only because dribblers are getting by him so easily.
* Despite the miserable schedule early in the season and the rash of injuries, this team could be a playoff contender if they could defend even a little bit. Defense has cost them countless victories.
* The front office and ownership have been grumbling about the lack of progress made defensively all season, then owner Dan Gilbert went public with it following Saturday's loss. "We have made good progress recently but when the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive back to the top tier of the NBA we will be a DEFEFENSIVE 1st team," Gilbert wrote on his Twitter account after the game.
* Nineteen of the Cavs' 51 opponents this season have shot 50 percent or better. Opponents are making 47 percent of their shots, leaving the Cavs with the league's worst defense. That 47 percent is a key number.
* In the previous three seasons, 20 teams have ended the year allowing opponents to make at least 47 percent of their shots. Out of those 20, only one has made the playoffs. The Knicks were the sixth seed in the East in 2011 after opponents shot .472 against them -- and the Knicks were swept out of the first round by the Celtics.
* Here are the Cavs' opponents shooting percentage since Scott took over with where it ranked in the league: 2010-11 (.475, 27th), 2011-12 (.467, 27th), 2012-13 (.476, 30th). That simply isn't good enough.
* If dramatic improvement doesn't occur over the final 31 games -- and judging from the first 199, that seems rather unlikely -- changes must come. Either to the roster, coaching staff or both. Guys are improving in all other areas, but no one is making any strides defensively.
* Until that is corrected, regardless of how well the Cavs do in all other facets, they will never be a legitimate playoff contender. The odds and percentages prove it.