Without Kyrie, stumbling Cavs lack response to brazen upstarts

5:28 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Even before the Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled out of the gates to a 3-5 record — owners of the league’s 29th-ranked defense, picked apart by the likes of Orlando, Brooklyn and New York — teams were taking their shots at the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs.

“We see an opportunity because there isn’t a Golden State in our conference or San Antonio or Houston,” Miami Heat president Pat Riley said in September.