SALT LAKE CITY: In 10 years as a head coach, Byron Scott hasn't seen this too often. He can spend all morning discussing certain ways to defend pick-and-rolls and screens, then watch his players forget absolutely everything at tip-off.
Such was the case again during Friday's 121-99 loss to the Utah Jazz. Scott was interested to see how his players would respond following the worst loss in franchise history on Tuesday. Turns out, they did everything he didn't want them to do.
"We can't make stuff up, and that's what our guys were doing in the first half," Scott said. "They were just making up stuff defensively that we just don't do."
As a result, the Jazz scored 39 points in the second quarter and 70 in the half. Surprisingly, that still isn't a season-high for points allowed by the Cavs in a half. The Minnesota Timberwolves' 73-point outburst during the first half on Dec. 4 remains tops.
The Cavs fell behind by 22 in the first half because of the defensive struggles. They got a huge assist from the offense, however, with 21 turnovers that led to 25 points for the Jazz. Conversely, the Cavs scored just nine points off 10 Jazz turnovers.
But Scott's biggest problem with the first half, in which the Jazz scored 70 points, was all the defensive breakdowns. He is out of reasons as to how he can go over concepts in the morning and have them get lost by the afternoon.
"It's a little new to me. All these situatoins, we go over almost on a daily basis," he said. "A lot of times it's a lack of focus. We haven't changed."
Scott has maintained since the preseason he only wants to defend pick-and-rolls with three different defenses so not to confuse the players.
"Maybe two or three are confusing," he said. "But we're going to stick to it and keep working on it. Like I said, hopefully our guys understand if we do it the way we talk about doing it, at least we give ourselves a chance to win."
They did in the second half. Without making any adjustments, Scott was much happier with the Cavs' defensive effort in the second half, when they cut a 20-point halftime deficit down to six in the third quarter.
"We just started doing them," he said.
Antawn Jamison's 3-pointer with 2:15 left in the third quarter cut the deficit to 89-83. Jamison was even fouled on the play, but missed the free throw. It turned out to be their last basket of the quarter, however, and the Cavs didn't score again until two minutes into the fourth. It was a crushing four-minute stretch that allowed the Jazz to kick the lead back out to 10.
It was also similar to three-minute scoreless drought in the second quarter that allowed the game to get out of hand. A dunk by J.J. Hickson pulled the Cavs within 35-31 early in the second, but they turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions and went scoreless for three minutes as the Jazz scored 14 straight points to take command of the game. The Cavaliers could never recover.
Jamison, playing in his 900th career game, had 26 points and 11 rebounds. He is one of only three players in league history, joining Dirk Nowitzki and Scottie Pippen, to have 17,000 career points, 7,000 career rebounds, 900 3-pointers and 900 games.
Hickson added 21 points, 14 rebounds and nine turnovers -- nearly completing a horrific triple-double -- and Mo Williams had 14 points and 10 assists. But Williams shot just 5 of 16 from the floor again as his offensive struggles continue.
"I think we got focused and locked down on defense," Hickson said of the second half defensive turnaround. "I think as a whole we have to do a better job of staying focused for the whole 48."
Deron Williams had 26 points and nine assists for the Jazz, who placed all five starters and reserve CJ Miles in double figures. Miles had 20 points off the bench (13 in the second quarter), while Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko and Al Jefferson each had 15 points.