It’s most definitely the first week of January. It’s not springtime, a fact painfully evident to anyone looking out the window Thursday.

And the Cleveland Cavaliers were on the second night of a back-to-back against the Boston Celtics, who had two whole days off since beating the Brooklyn Nets on New Year’s Eve.

But while it’s best not to read too much into the Celtics’ 102-88 victory over the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions Wednesday night, LeBron James wasn’t going to just let it slide, either.

“Their defense was very good,” he said after scoring 19 points in 32:42 of play, his shortest stint since the last week of November. “They were very in tune to what we wanted to do execution-wise offensively. We had some good looks at times. Some of the looks were a little bit tougher. But they had a good defensive plan and they executed it very well.”

The Cavs took 32 3-pointers and missed 24 of them. They shot 34.8 percent. The 88 points was a season low.

“Listen,” said LeBron, “they played at a high level and they’ve been playing extremely well at home – and on the road at times, as well – so they just gave us a good one.”

As for how different the Celts looked from the season-opening meeting in Cleveland, James said, “I mean, everybody looks different at this point in the season, so it’s not a surprise.”

But it may have caught a few people off guard that Kyrie Irving had just 11 points, making 5 of 14 shots (0 of 5 on 3-pointers), and pulling in nine rebounds to go with six assists.

With the exception of going scoreless in 1:50 against Charlotte before getting his face fractured, he tied his season ebb.

James was asked about Irving being more of a distributor and whether there has been growth in that side of his game.

“Well, I mean, there’s two guys on the ball,” James said. “You’ve got to give the ball up. That’s just basketball.”

He was far more expansive with discussing Terry Rozier, who hit 8 of 12 shots and had 20 points.

“Very good,” said LeBron. “Very good. He’s getting more and more confident every single year. This is his third year so he’s picking up better habits, more habits. He’s very quick, shooting the ball extremely well. Very aggressive, too.”

The Celtics – all of them – were quicker to the ball. They were more assertive than the Cavaliers, going ahead by 23 points and winning hustle plays in the stretches when their shots weren’t falling.

But while Cleveland showed proper respect, you have to wonder if this game will have much of an echo.

Put plainly, are the Cavaliers ever concerned about another Eastern Conference team?

“Absolutely,” said James. “Always. Why not?”

Because your team essentially handed the top seed in the East to the Celtics last year by resting people and didn’t seem worried in the least about the absence of homecourt advantage in the conference finals, which it won in five games.

And because no matter the situation, the Cavaliers don’t seem daunted in the least.

“I’m always concerned about teams getting better and better,” James said. “But I’m more concerned about us getting better and better. That’s the bigger thing.

“So it’s Washington and obviously this team right here. You know, Miami’s trying to get better and better. Toronto’s playing exceptional basketball right now.

“The East is pretty dang good this year, and right now we’re not so good, great, not so good, see what happens next. But you’ve always got to be concerned with the competition, for sure.”

The key is whether the Cavaliers see the Celtics as a different type of threat this time around.

“I think they were a threat last year,” said LeBron. “The injury affected them a lot.”

The injury was the hip problem that knocked Isaiah Thomas out of the conference finals in the second game – the same problem that kept Thomas, now with the Cavaliers, sidelined until Tuesday.

The injury is now affecting the Cavs.

“I don’t know who we are or what we can be until we get (Thomas) back consistently,” James said. “But we know what the program is, so it’s not like a surprise he wasn’t playing (against Boston). We already know he won’t play in the Indiana game after we’re in (Toronto on Jan. 11-12). He’s not playing back-to-backs right now.

“So until we get a full dosage of (Thomas) and get our rotations down and things of that nature. … You know, we were playing well and Tristan (Thompson) comes back; we integrate him. We haven’t played as well as of late so we’re trying to figure that out, as well.

“We’ll be fine, though.”

Just maybe not in the regular season when the games come in small bunches.

And while James may be wondering about the competition, his coach isn’t losing sleep over the 41/2 games between the Cavaliers and the first-place Celtics in the East.

“It doesn’t concern me,” said Tyronn Lue. “As long as we make the playoffs, we’re fine.”

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