Prior to a Jan. 16 clash in Oakland between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the defending champs had beaten their cross-country rival four straight times, including a historic Finals comeback and a Christmas Day thriller -- a game in which Golden State coughed up a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and ultimately lost by a point.

Even with the highly publicized addition of Kevin Durant, Cleveland still found a way to extend its winning streak over Golden State.

In the days leading up to that contest in January, something about the Cavs' demeanor didn't sit right with GM David Griffin. It's still unknown whether he suspected overconfidence or complacency with his group, but management felt that a humbling experience against the Warriors might be necessary for the team's growth moving forward.

And like clockwork, an embarrassing 35-point loss ensued, Cleveland's worst defeat of the season.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving shot a combined 12-for-37 from the field. They each had six turnovers. James had a plus-minus of minus-32, the lowest in the game. Kevin Love shot 1-for-6 for 3 points.

"I played like s---," James said while walking out of Oracle Arena. "I didn't have it tonight."

Griffin saw the concern on his guys' faces after the game. That's exactly what he wanted to see. Doubt had reappeared. James' comments came a week later.

In New Orleans on Jan. 23, after the Cavaliers' fifth loss in seven games, James told a group of local reporters that he hopes the franchise isn't satisfied with the collecting of one ring. He also had harsh, blunt critiques about the construction of the roster.

"We top-heavy as s---," James said. "It's me, [Irving], [Love]. It's top-heavy."

There was some uneasiness within the locker room following James' candid rant. Players were all of a sudden awkwardly left wondering if they were part of the problem or part of the solution.

Griffin fired back the next day, calling James' remarks "misguided."

Despite the internal conflict, with the liberty of hindsight, the front office now believes James was brilliant in lashing out and considers it one of the turning points in the season.

James had hoped that such a bold controversial assessment might galvanize the team. It appears that may be the case. Cleveland is 11-4 since and appears ready for a third straight push to the Finals.