NEW YORK: The Cavs’ problems were broken open and spilled across the nation on Thursday. The lack of heart and toughness, the inability to defend the simplest of plays, Kyrie Irving’s rumored unhappiness here … all of it exposed to a national audience during the Cavs’ 117-86 loss at the New York Knicks on Thursday.
The head coach and general manager both lashed the players for their lack of effort in recent days, then they promptly responded with what was arguably their worst effort of the season in a game that was never close.
The Cavs surrendered six layups and dunks in the first quarter and nine in the first half. The Knicks made 10 of their first 13 shots and led by 17 just six minutes into the game. The Knicks shot uncontested 3-pointers, they enjoyed open lanes to the basket. And never once did anyone wearing a Cavs jersey decide to do anything about it.
“Our competitive spirit is non-existent,” Mike Brown said after Tuesday’s abysmal loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
“The lack of effort is just not acceptable,” General Manager Chris Grant said on Wednesday. “It’s not who we are and who we want to be. It’s got to be addressed head on.”
It may have been addressed, but it certainly hasn’t been resolved. That was evident when J.R. Smith enjoyed a behind-the-back dunk because Irving and Dion Waiters didn’t get back in transition. The Knicks followed on their next possession with a dunk from Tyson Chandler while Irving and Anthony Bennett stood and watched.
Brown immediately called a timeout as the Knicks strutted and danced off the floor with a 102-76 lead.
Irving had 24 points and six rebounds while shooting 10-for-25 and Luol Deng had 13 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cavs had little production anywhere else. Dion Waiters had 21 points, but 16 came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Tristan Thompson was invisible with two points and two rebounds. Tyler Zeller, starting in place of Anderson Varejao again, had two points and a rebound in 14 minutes.
Carmelo Anthony had 29 points in 30 minutes for the Knicks, including 18 in the first quarter when he nearly outscored the Cavs (20) by himself.
The Cavs surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 60 in the first half. It got so bad that Brown even tried Alonzo Gee, whose only time on the floor in nearly three weeks was three minutes of garbage time in a blowout win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
That game is also the Cavs’ lone win in the last two weeks. They’ve now lost five of their last six.
As for Irving, ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote during his weekly chat Thursday afternoon that Irving has privately told people he wants out of Cleveland, something Irving tried to deny after the game.
“I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here,” Irving said. “And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here.”
But Irving stopped short of saying he would accept the contract extension he will receive this summer.
“It’s still too early to say,” Irving said. “I’m still trying to get through this season. Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me. I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach Brown and the coaching staff and I’m going to play my heart out every single night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.”