ATLANTA: Nineteen thoughts for 19 Dion Waiters shots following a terrible 117-98 loss in a game that effectively ended the Cavs’ postseason hopes…
1. Mike Brown saw it. Luol Deng saw it. Unfortunately, the guys they were talking about apparently didn’t see it, feel it or hear it.
2. Brown thought the offense was as bad Friday as it has been in two months – or more – because of the stagnant offense. “The ball movement was very, very, very limited for us,” Brown said.
3. Deng was even more direct. “We have a lot of good players, a lot of individuals who could take over games, but we have to realize that’s not our strength,” he said. “We’ve shown when we share the ball and play together, we’re a different team.”
4. Deng didn’t name names. He didn’t have to. It’s easy to decipher he was talking about Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Irving shot 6-for-15 and Waiters was 8-for-19. But it wasn’t just the total number of shots, it was the shot selection that had both the coach and the veteran player irritated.
5. “Their pressure enticed us into taking a lot of jump shots,” Brown said, adding later, “the way we lost, it looked like we weren’t playing for much out there. It looked like we were going through the motions.”
6. He’s absolutely right. Deng wasn’t sure, but thought maybe it was the pressure of the game and the moment that forced guys to think they had to do it all themselves. I suppose it’s human nature to a degree. But the more troubling part to me is Irving and Waiters didn’t seem to get it.
7. Waiters conceded the ball stuck at times, but said he was happy with his looks, said he got to all the spots he wanted, he just didn’t make shots. Irving felt all of his shots were in rhythm and felt good. Obviously others disagreed.
8. “I’m just trying to figure it out,” Irving said. “I’m trying to make this transition back to the team seamless. We were playing so well. … Shots I normally make, moves I normally make when the bigs are switching out on me, they were good shots but I just missed them tonight.”
9. Irving and Waiters looked so good together in Wednesday’s win over the Orlando Magic. The ball movement was terrific. Not just with them, but all the players. But it has to start with those two.
10. I thought Irving made great strides in the few games before his biceps injury of trusting teammates and moving the ball more. Before returning to the court prior to the Magic game, he sat down with various members of the organization who asked him what he had learned from watching the team play so well in his absence. Essentially Irving said he can trust his teammates more. But they all seemed to stop trusting again Friday.
11. Of course, I wrote on Wednesday that the Magic’s defense was horrific and the Cavs took whatever they wanted inside. The roles were reversed on Friday. The Hawks’ dribble penetration destroyed the Cavs. The Cavs guards did little to slow the Hawks, which allowed multiple dump-offs and easy baskets. That’s why Mike Scott was able to go 12-for-13 tonight for 26 points. He entered averaging less than 10 points.
12. Jeff Teague had 12 assists. Kyle Korver had six. Lou Williams had six. That’s 24 assists from the Hawks’ top three guards. And Paul Millsap had six, too. Just terrible, terrible defense from the Cavs.
13. “We couldn’t stop anybody,” Brown said. “We're getting blown by. We were at times making up coverages out there on our own because we were in scramble mode so much.”
14. And now Deng: “Defensively they moved the ball and we were just running around.”
15. Guys tried to keep a stiff upper lip. I asked Brown, Deng, Irving and Jarrett Jack if they felt like the season was over with this loss. They all said no (I didn’t expect them to say yes), but the truth is fairly evident. The Cavs are three games out of the playoffs with five to play. They trail the Hawks by four in the loss column and the Hawks have seven to play. The season is over, folks, even if the players aren’t publicly admitting it. And they really can’t since technically they haven’t been eliminated yet.
16. “I don’t feel defeated at all,” Irving said. “I would hope and I’m pretty sure my teammates share the same feeling.”
17. At least publicly they did. “It’s never over until someone tells you, ‘No matter what, if you win now it’s over,’” Deng said. “You just never know. They could go out and lose every game, we could win – you can’t have that attitude.”
18. And Brown: “It doesn't feel like it’s over. But the loss was very, very disappointing. I’m OK with losses, even right now. You want to win every game you play, but sometimes it’s not going to happen. If you lose a certain way, you can stomach it to a certain degree. You can stomach a loss if there’s something behind it. Tonight, I didn't feel like there was anything behind it.”
19. I’m obviously well aware of the tweets Irving sent out late Friday directed toward former ABJ writer and current ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst regarding Windhorst’s comments over Irving’s future. I’ve addressed many of those topics already and have nothing new to add to it right now. That could change later. Talk to you Saturday following a Bobcats game that just lost a lot of its appeal.