As the Cavs had gotten off to a dismal 3-5 start that included blowout losses to the Magic, Pelicans and Knicks, the "Is Cleveland in trouble?" train pulled out of the station even earlier than usual this year. Had the Cavs laid an egg against the Wizards on Friday, which would've been their fifth straight defeat, that thing would've hit full speed. 

Instead, LeBron James, as he often simply decides to do, put his foot down. Scored 57 points on 67-percent shooting. Added 11 boards, seven assists, three steals and two blocks. Played the whole second half. And that was that -- with Cleveland holding on for a 130-122 win in Washington. Take a look at the highlights:

With the obvious qualification that no conclusions can be drawn this early in the season, there is both good and bad news for the Cavs in this performance. The good news is that despite all their collective struggles, having LeBron is still enough to get them past an upper-echelon Eastern team, which seemingly bodes well for their chances to make a fourth straight trip to the Finals. 

The bad news, of course, is that if you need LeBron to be that unbelievable, and to play that many hard minutes in doing so, just to beat a Wizards team that has lost four of five in its own right, can you rely on that as a sustainable model come playoff time? More importantly, does this give you even a puncher's chance against Golden State, even if it is enough to get through the East?

Before you try to answer that question, keep in mind the Cavs are playing without Isaiah Thomas -- who should give the Cavs something close to the offensive production Kyrie Irving provided last year if he returns healthy. That's a big hole right now. Yes, the defense has been bad, but if LeBron and Thomas are clicking offensively, it's going to be tough for a Boston, Washington or Toronto to outscore the Cavs four times. 

Why? Because LeBron, even in his 15th season, still puts you in such an impossible position as a defense. You can double him, and he'll get everyone else going. Or you can do what the Wizards did on Friday, which is switch everything and play him straight up for the most part, which didn't exactly work out either. 

You knew the Cavs were serious about this game when LeBron stayed in to start the fourth quarter, when he's usually getting his scheduled rest. On their first possession(s) of the final frame, he initiated the ball swings that led to open threes for Channing Frye and Kyle Korver, out-muscled everyone for the offensive rebound on both misses, before finally finishing an and-one on the third go-round:

That right there is a man doing everything he can to win a game in November. In fact, LeBron said as much after the game, telling reporters: "I had to do what I had to do to help us get off this losing streak." 

What that typically means is that LeBron is going to go into score mode. It's not the mode in which he most naturally operates, and yet, he's the best scorer in the world when he wants, or needs, to be; In the seven Cavs wins over the last three NBA Finals, he only went under 30 points once. For his career, he averages 33.1 points in Game 7s. Clearly, that kind of take-over power is still in his tank, and again, that's why it's still an overreaction to say the Cavs are in any more trouble than they've been in over the past three regular seasons, none of which have been all that impressive. 

The difference is, he doesn't usually have to tap into this sort of last-resort, isolate-in-the-post, bully-to-the-rim, remind-everyone-I'm-the-best-player-in-the-world mode this early in the season. But alas, it's easy for outsiders like me to say a team like the Cavs shouldn't panic. LeBron knows his team. He knows when things are better, or worse, than they appear. A players-only meeting in the first three weeks of the season tells you LeBron isn't playing around with assuming anything down the road before the Cavs take care of the business in front of them. 

The Wizards would be wise to learn this same lesson. Over the last few weeks, Marcin Gortat said John Wall was going to "torture" Lonzo Ball, Bradley Beal said the Wizards were the best team in the East, and Wall, in the most ridiculous of assertions, went on The Jump in advance of Friday's matchup and said the Cavs purposefully fell to the No. 2 seed in last year's playoffs to avoid the Wizards.

For the record, Lonzo Ball's Lakers dumped Washington, Beal's 36 points weren't enough on Friday, and Wall went 4 for 13 against the Cavs. Come at the King, you best not miss.