CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Fourteen thoughts, one for every 3-pointer the Cavs missed in what was a damaging 101-92 loss to the Bobcats…
1. I was spitballing with a couple of the players before Friday’s game about the playoffs. We came to the conclusion that if they could sweep the weekend, then steal one win on next week’s West Coast trip and then snag one during the three-game homestand against Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston, then they’d be 4-4 after this grueling eight-game stretch. It’s all conjecture, but we figured 4-4 at that point would leave them about two games out of the eighth spot with 12 games left, which is certainly manageable given the way the schedule opens up a bit at the end of the season. But anything more than two games out would be tough to overcome.
2. Well welcome to tough to overcome. The repercussions of this loss are palpable. If the goal of this eight-game obstacle course is .500, that just became increasingly more difficult.
3. How big was this game to the Bobcats? Coach Steve Clifford played his Ace before the game, calling in owner Michael Jordan to deliver the pregame speech. Folks around here say Jordan never addresses the team, but Clifford wants these guys thinking, talking and preparing for the playoffs.
4. “If that doesn’t motivate you,” Al Jefferson said of Jordan’s pregame visit. “I don’t know what will.”
5. Hey, maybe LeBron can address the Cavs prior to Saturday’s game. No? OK, just checking…
6. The Cavs played from behind most of the night and could never get the one extra stop they needed. Any time they pulled even, or on those two occasions when they went ahead by one point, the Bobcats always answered. The Cavs seemed to keep falling one stop short.
7. Here is the crazy part about where they stand: Given the schedule in front of them, things could really unravel at any moment. If the season ended today, they’d probably have the ninth pick in the draft. But they’re 2 ½ games away from being tied for the fourth-worst record in the league. So this is still a perilous position, which further illustrates how lousy the East has been this season.
8. Spencer Hawes’ deficiencies against big, physical centers were on display Friday. Luckily for the Cavs, there aren’t many more of those guys left. Tyson Chandler a couple times, Dwight Howard… Hawes really struggled keeping up with Jefferson. All of the Cavs’ bigs did. And when they doubled him, the Bobcats made them pay.
9. I wrote a lot about Luol Deng in the notebook. If you missed it earlier, click here. Deng’s numbers are down with the Cavs. We didn’t talk about his contract, because I half-jokingly promised him a couple weeks ago I wouldn’t mention it for a while, but I have to believe his value is dropping every week.
10. Among the fascinating Deng tidbits I found: He only had 7 percent of his shots blocked this season with the Bulls, but he’s getting 18 percent of his shots blocked with the Cavs. Deng partially blamed his Achilles injury for that, although it’s obvious he’s not being used the same way as he was in Chicago, and the other stat proves that.
11. On his assisted baskets, 46 percent of those assists in Chicago went to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, two bigs brilliant at passing out of the post. With the Cavs, Irving and Jarrett Jack are getting 46 percent of the assists on his assisted baskets. That’s because of the Cavs’ guard-dominated, pick-and-roll style game. I’ve written it a few times already, but it’s becoming more and more clear now: Barring something unforeseen, Luol Deng won’t be back with the Cavs next season. And it will be a mutual decision.
12. The Cavs shot 3-for-17 tonight on 3-pointers. Irving was 0-for-7, including 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Yick.
13. That’s all I’ve got for tonight. A few players conceded before the game this one felt more important than Saturday’s game against the Knicks, only because the Cavs are chasing the Bobcats. But a loss Saturday on Zydrunas Ilgauskas night and the season is officially over. Maybe it already is.
14. Was talking to someone else in the media tonight after the game and joked, “at least now we know when the season will end.” His response? “It just did.” Talk to you Saturday from the Q.