CLEVELAND: The maddening inconsistencies have been there all season: The inability to play well in consecutive games, the inability to defend well for four quarters. Only now it’s amplified, and now it is raising questions attached to Byron Scott’s future.
The Cavs were embarrassed Wednesday by the Brooklyn Nets 113-95 – and it wasn’t even that close – on a night the Nets were without two starters. They scored 38 points in the second quarter, tying for the most the Cavs have surrendered in a quarter this season, and shot 73 percent in the first half.
They allowed a 38-year-old and decrepit Jerry Stackhouse to dunk on them, then watched three minutes later as a fat point guard in cement boots split the defense and dunked for the first time this season.
“It was embarrassing,” Luke Walton said.
It’s happening with more frequency as this season concludes. The Cavs have lost 10 consecutive games, their longest skid since they dropped 26 straight in Scott’s first season. During this losing streak, the Cavs have suffered their worst loss of the season (38 points), suffered the biggest collapse in team history (blowing a 27-point lead and losing) and have lost three other games by 18, 20 and 21 points.
Now the questions – and fingers – are pointing toward Scott.
Asked directly if he was concerned he could be fired at the end of the season, Scott responded “not really.”
“I’ve always had the attitude that whatever happens, happens,” he said.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much good happening these days.
Despite playing without Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, the Nets made 15 of 18 shots in a remarkable second quarter. They hit inside and outside, making their first five 3-point attempts until Keith Bogans finally missed one at the halftime buzzer.
Stackhouse’s dunk put the Nets up 45-30 with 5:54 left in the half. Deron Williams’ dunk made it 54-32. The lead was 30 at the half and stretched to 34 in the third quarter.
All of this occurred one game after the Cavs showed some fight and played fairly well Monday in a loss at the Atlanta Hawks. That squelched – for 48 hours – questions about whether or not the Cavs had quit on the season and their coach. Given Wednesday’s putrid performance, the question was posed to Kyrie Irving if any of his teammates have given up.
“I think you should ask them,” Irving said. “I’m not going to be the one to answer that.”
Asked if he has quit, Irving said no.
“I’m out here playing with basically a still-sprained AC joint without a care in the world because I just want to play out there with my teammates,” Irving said. “I haven’t checked out. That thought has never crossed my mind.”
As the Nets poured on the baskets, no one was knocked down, no one appeared angry. Instead, the Nets’ point guard put Tyler Zeller – the biggest Cavs player – on his butt with a flagrant foul. But no one from the Cavs seemed to fight back or care to retaliate.
“Effort, that’s it,” Irving said. “Things went from bad to worse. Once we got down, our entire game plan went down the drain.”
Irving had 16 points and six assists, but shot just 5 of 16. Tyler Zeller had 14 points and Mo Speights had 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
The problem was Reggie Evans outrebounded the Cavs’ entire starting frontcourt, grabbing 18 in 27 minutes after Scott said all day keeping him off the glass was a priority. MarShon Brooks had a season high by the end of the first half and finished with a career-high 27 points. Williams had 24 points and eight assists.
“That was one of the worst halves that we’ve had in a while. And I mean just from an effort and energy standpoint, period,” Scott said. “I’m disappointed. After the effort we had in Atlanta, to come back and play this way, I’m very disappointed in the way we played. Just didn’t show any life.”
There are eight games left to salvage what crumbs remain in this season. Their best remaining chances at victory appear to be Sunday at home against the Orlando Magic, next week at home against the Detroit Pistons and then the season finale at the Charlotte Bobcats.
If the Cavs play as they did Monday at Atlanta, they just might win one, two or all three of those games. If they give the effort they did on this night eight more times, the decision on Scott’s future might be final.