CLEVELAND: Eleven thoughts following an 11-point loss that was actually much, much worse…
1. I’m tired of ranking the embarrassing losses this team has managed to produce. First Sacramento, then New York, now tonight… They’re all inexcusable.
2. The defense is broke. That’s evident. And it’s broke because guys can’t be bothered to extend any effort. The 18 3-pointers surrendered to the Lakers tonight, according to Elias Sports Bureau, are the most they’ve allowed in a game since Dec.28, 2010 when they allowed 19 to the Orlando Magic. That thought alone is bad enough, but when you see who the Lakers had on the floor, it’s inexcusable.
3. Jarrett Jack put it all on the effort. Mike Brown said the Cavs ran the same schemes in the fourth quarter as they did the first, but it was obviously much more effective in the fourth quarter because guys were actually trying.
4. To get technical about it, Luol Deng said the defense isn’t stopping the ball early enough and the weak side defense has been terrible. “We’re stopping (the ball) too deep, then the closeouts are too long,” Deng said. “Individually we have to keep our guy in front of us. Guys drive a straight line and create help, now we’re running around helping.”
5. The dribble penetration by the Lakers’ guards was again a problem. The Cavs couldn’t stop the pick-and-roll, either. Put it together and the 3-point line is often exposed with a shooter waiting behind it.
6. “In a pick-and-roll, when the guy rolls, the weak side is supposed to be there early,” Deng said. “Right now, our weak side is getting there late and teams are moving the ball. If we do a better job of shrinking the floor and stopping the ball early, it will help a lot with the rotation.” It would also help if guys tried. Just a little.
7. Brown conceded he gave a brief thought to going back to his starters late in the fourth, but he stuck with the guys who got them back in the game. I liked the move, if only to send a message to Kyrie Irving, Jack and everyone else. Obviously Irving will be singled out in all of this because he’s the star and he didn’t get off the bench in the fourth quarter. I’ve got no problem with that.
8. Matthew Dellavedova shot 3-for-8 (1-for-5 on 3s), but he had eight points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal in 23 minutes. He fueled this comeback with defensive stops and good ball movement, along with a big 3-pointer. With this team struggling so badly just to play hard, I wonder if Brown will carve a place for Delly in his rotation moving forward. I asked Brown about any rotation changes moving forward, and he gave his standard “I can change the lineup at any time.” We’ll see.
9. For the third time in five games, Anthony Bennett again scored in double figures (14 points) and nearly had a double-double (eight rebounds). That’s three double-digit scoring games in his last five and more confidence both within him and from Brown, who stuck with the rookie in the game’s final minutes. Hey, it’s a start. The kid, finally, seems to be making progress lately.
10. For those who missed the strange end to the game, Robert Sacre fouled out but kept playing because the injury-ravaged Lakers were out of healthy bodies. First I’d ever seen that. Had he committed more fouls (he didn’t), they would’ve all counted as technicals. Steve Nash, who wasn’t supposed to play, emerged from the locker room for the game’s final minutes dressed and ready if needed. By NBA rule, however, he wouldn’t have been eligible to play because Sacre remained in the game after fouling out. And yet the Lakers still won. Incredible.
11. Prior to the game, Brown again mentioned playoffs being the goal for this season. I think it’s time we stop kidding ourselves. This dysfunctional team has lost six straight and has fallen 5 ½ games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the final playoff spot. Even more troubling, they’re just 7 games away from catching the Milwaukee Bucks for the worst record in the NBA. They’ve fallen a half-game behind the Boston Celtics, who have no interest in winning this season, and they’re 3 games away from tying the Magic for the league’s second-worst record. It’s time to put away this playoff nonsense.