Cavs on the defensive, trying to buck history

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Two seasons ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers made history by becoming the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals to win an NBA championship.

Now, two years removed from donning that crown, the Cavaliers find themselves attempting to make more history this season, though it pales in comparison to what they accomplished in the 2015-16 season:

Make the playoffs.

Why would that be any type of accomplishment for a team that tipped off its 2017-18 season with championship aspirations?

After all, more than half (16) of the NBA's 30 teams reach the postseason, eight from each conference. Entering Sunday night's game against the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers (28-19) stand third in the Eastern Conference standings.

Well, entering their game against Detroit on Sunday night, the Cavaliers rank dead last among the 30 NBA teams in terms of defensive rating with a mark of 109.8, meaning that's how many points they surrender per 100 possessions.

So, back to trying to make history simply by qualifying for the playoffs.

As ESPN's Kevin Pelton points out, in the last quarter-century -- 26 seasons, to be exact -- only one team in the NBA has managed to reach the postseason with even a bottom-two defensive rating, let alone sporting the worst mark in the league -- the 2002-03 Milwaukee Bucks.

Playing in a four-division setup, two in each conference, those Bucks finished 42-40 in the regular season, fourth in the Central Division, and qualified for the playoffs as the seventh seed.

Coached by GeorgeKarl, those Bucks were led by RayAllen (21.3 points per game), SamCassell (19.7), GaryPayton (19.6, 7.4 assists), MichaelRedd (15.1), DesmondMason (14.8), TimThomas (13.3) and ToniKukoc (11.6).

Milwaukee averaged 99.5 points and allowed 99.3 that season and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the New Jersey Nets, 4-2.

The Cavaliers' 109.8 defensive rating this season is an exact match for their offensive rating, which is the fifth-best mark in the NBA.

Will good offense be able to overcome abysmal defense and allow Cleveland to even reach the postseason, let alone contend for a second NBA championship in three seasons?

The Cavaliers trail Eastern Conference-leading Boston (35-15) by 5.5 games and second-place Toronto (32-15) by four games.

The team just on the outside looking in for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East -- Detroit (22-25), tonight's opponent -- trails Cleveland by six games.