PHILADELPHIA: Kyrie Irving walked to the bench with 10:31 left in the third quarter Sunday with five fouls, four points and four turnovers to his name. He never returned. There simply wasn’t a need on a day the Cavaliers never made it to Wells Fargo Center.
In a season full of disappointing efforts, the Cavs squeezed in one more with their 91-77 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. They scored 34 points in the first half and managed just 51 through three quarters. At one point in the third, the Cavs had 18 baskets and 16 turnovers.
“Lack of effort,” coach Byron Scott said. “Simple as that.”
Irving was one of many with a poor performance and his four points marked a career-low. But his mental blunder to start the third quarter aptly illustrated the ineptness of the day. Irving was called for a charge on the opening possession of the third quarter for his third foul, then inexplicably grabbed Evan Turner a minute later to stop a fast break. Irving thought he only had two fouls after the first half, even though both teams are supplied with stat sheets as they enter the locker room for halftime.
“I thought I had three and I was going to commit my fourth to stop the fast break,” Irving said. “I forgot I had another foul. I don’t remember fouling the guy again. I thought I had two going into halftime. It was poor judgment on my end.”
The effort level was one of the worst of the season and again begs the question whether or not this team has given up. They have lost four straight and 14 of their last 16, and will now face the defending champion Miami Heat tonight on Fan Appreciation Night in the home finale.
The at least catch a small break since Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem did not make the trip to Cleveland and LeBron James isn’t expected to play tonight, either, considering the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls in a grueling, physical game on Sunday. James will make the trip, but is officially listed as a game-time decision.
The Cavs’ effort may be a game-time decision as well.
Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 12 rebounds Sunday, but received little help from anyone else. The 77 points was their second-worst offensive performance of the season, trailing only the 73 points they scored at Minnesota. But most of Sunday’s points were scored in the fourth, when the Cavs began the quarter trailing by 19.
Scott used Chris Quinn, Daniel Gibson, Omri Casspi, Kevin Jones and Mo Speights for the entire fourth quarter. Of those five, Jones likely has the best chance at returning next season.
“It’s disappointing,” Scott said. “That’s why you yank the guys out and bring other guys in and see if they can get it going. But the bottom line is just a lack of effort.”
Scott said he benched the starters for the fourth because “I didn’t see no reason to bring them out.”
Dion Waiters rejoined the team after missing Friday’s game to deal with a personal issue and scored 11 points, but shot just 5 of 15. He is now 7 of 28 in two games playing in front of his hometown team.
“I felt good today, too,” Waiters said. “My shots were in and out, like everybody else’s today. I was being aggressive, got good looks. It happens.”
Jones had 11 points and 10 rebounds, primarily in garbage time during the fourth quarter, and Mo Speights had 12 points. Wayne Ellington had 12 points, but shot 4 of 12.
With two games left, the Cavs are crawling to the finish with a 2-6 April. They were 4-12 in April last year and 4-4 in April the year before.
“We’ve got to pick it up. It’s winding down,” Waiters said. “We’ve got to find some energy or something just to go out there and play. Even though we’re not playing for nothing, we still have to go out there and play the game that we love. We’ve got to go out and play every game like it’s our last.”
He’s in luck. Mercifully, it almost is.