PORTLAND, ORE.: Samardo Samuels was wide open under the basket waiving frantically for the ball. Daniel Gibson dribbled around a defender and hit him in the hands with a bounce pass, but it bounced off Samuels’ hands and trickled out of bounds.
When Omri Casspi missed a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, failed to follow his shot and failed to get back on defense, he was immediately yanked from the game and chewed out by Cavs coach Byron Scott.
It was that kind of night Sunday in the Cavs’ 98-78 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Cavs committed a season-high 24 turnovers, shot 37 percent for the game and were outhustled by a more talented Blazers team that remains unbeaten at home (5-0).
More than anything, it was the turnovers that had Scott irritated. The bench, which has played so well early this season, was responsible for 15 of the turnovers. Samuels had five of them in 13 ½ minutes.
“Twenty four turnovers, you’re not going to win a whole lot of NBA games,” Scott said. “I didn’t think we had the type of focus we needed, especially on the offensive end. I’ve never seen us that flippant with the ball, just throwing it everywhere like it was a hot potato. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
As for Casspi, his struggles continue. Scott had maintained he could live with Casspi’s shooting problems as long as he kept playing defense. But he began the game 1 of 7 from the floor and missed all five of his 3-pointers and was chastised for his defense on the play that gave Gerald Wallace an easy basket.
“It’s unacceptable,” Scott said. “You’re going to miss shots, I don’t mind that. Still not doing your job on the defensive end? That’s not going to fly.”
The Cavs faced the stark reality Sunday of how limited their scoring options are beyond Irving. Jamison grabbed 11 rebounds, but made just 1 of 8 shots. He is the team’s leading scorer, but with him struggling through an off night, Irving took it upon himself to get to the basket.
He had 21 points, but just four assists and four turnovers. He also had at least three shots blocked at the rim on drives to the basket, but he also scored seven consecutive points and 9 of 11 during one stretch in the third quarter when he was the only reason the Cavs were still in the game.
“We had 24 turnovers and they converted on practically all of them,” Irving said. “Give credit to them, but we have to limit our mistakes going forward.”
Particularly Samuels, who has endured a miserable week. He had five turnovers in less than 14 minutes on Sunday, which capped a week in which he was pulled against the Charlotte Bobcats after 8 ½ minutes on Tuesday because Scott said he wasn’t focused, then he was forced to miss Wednesday’s game at Toronto because he lost his passport and visa. He returned to the lineup Friday at Minnesota, but had five fouls in eight minutes.
“It’s being a little eager to score and wanting to do good on the offensive end,” Samuels said. “It’s something I have to right, though. It’s just rushing. I think I was rushing today instead of being a little calmer.”
Samuels could be on his way out in the Cavs’ rotation. He has received the bulk of his minutes this year as the backup center, but Semih Erden made his much-anticipated return to the lineup Sunday.
Scott said before the game he wanted to keep him out, but reserved the right to change his mind. He did in the fourth quarter, when the game got out of hand. Erden played five minutes, scoring one point and grabbing one rebound. Now that he’s recovered from a broken thumb and back in the rotation, his minutes will likely increase.
The Cavs kept Sunday’s game close for 2 ½ quarters. After Irving’s scoring outburst kept them within striking distance, Jamison hit a 3-pointer (his first basket of the game) to pull the Cavs within 57-53 with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The Blazers scored the game’s next 12 points as the Cavs committed four turnovers and missed three shots on their next seven possessions. A layup by Wes Matthews extended the Blazers’ lead to 69-53 late in the quarter’s final minute and the Blazers built the lead to 24 in the fourth quarter.
“We held them to 41 percent shooting from the field and if you take away the turnovers and layups they got in transition because of the turnovers, they’re probably shooting in the low 30s,” Scott said. “From a defensive standpoint, I’m happy with that end of the floor. But I’m not happy with the way we played on offense.”