As far as national perception is concerned, this was the wrong night for the Cavaliers to turn in their worst performance of the preseason.
They were already the punchline of many national jokes after LeBron's departure, and losing to a team from Moscow isn't going to help matters any. The Lakers lost to FC Barcelona last week, but this loss will probably draw more attention.
Byron Scott said after the game he isn't concerned with the national perception, that he just has to look at the tape and see all the things the Cavaliers didn't do tonight after doing them well for weeks. The defensive rotations were lazy, the ball handling was sloppy and the effort just wasn't there.
Scott admitted his players probably took Moscow lightly because they aren't in the NBA.
"We'll have to remind guys that we can't turn it on and off as a basketball team," Scott said. "We don't have that luxury."
Translation: They aren't good enough for that.
The Cavs had a problem with that last season, when they had the stars to pull it off. They could yawn and dawdle for three quarters, then hand the ball to LeBron in the fourth and get out of the way. That's no longer the case. There has been enough turnover both on the roster and on the coaching staff to assume this won't be a recurring problem, but for tonight, it's certainly annoying to Scott.
No one will use this as an excuse, but the Cavs were without four of their best players in Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker. Their lineup at one point in the fourth quarter consisted of Christian Eyenga, Danny Green, Samardo Samuels, Ramon Sessions and Leon Powe. That's one raw rookie (Eyenga), one undrafted rookie (Samuels) and one second-round pick (Green) now in his second year and fighting for his roster life.
The Cavs have plenty of work to do, and Scott was rightfully annoyed after watching this game. He likened it to the effort the players gave last week in a loss to Washington, but that game followed a grueling two-hour practice earlier in the day. The players were exhausted before the tip. That wasn't the case tonight. Scott put the players through a typically light shootaround Saturday morning typical of what they'll have throughout the season.
The Cavaliers simply failed to show up. If that happens during the regular season, it could get ugly.