Both Cavs coach Byron Scott and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy were griping about effort after tonight's game. Scott was upset the Cavs got off to another lousy start and Van Gundy was upset the Magic let the Cavs back in the game.
There is a really simple explanation for all of this: The Cavs don't have the talent to match most other teams in the league when those other teams are actually trying. And they're usually trying in the first quarter. Then the opponents built a big lead, get bored, stop playing and try to bleed out the clock to move on to another city and play another game. Such is life during an 82-game season.
The Cavs during LeBron James' era often did the same thing: Build a big lead and coast to the finish. The reason the Cavs can cut a 26-point deficit to nine in the final minutes against a good Orlando team is because the Magic quit playing and began toying with the Cavs.
For example: The Cavs had cut a 20-point deficit down to 11 in three minutes. Christian Eyenga's jumper with 8:06 left cut the Magic lead to 82-71. On their next trip down the floor, Daniel Gibson had a chance to make it an eight-point game, but his 3-pointer rattled in and out. Quentin Richardson went down to the other end, drilled a 3 and the lead was back to 14. Good teams can usually turn it on and off against bad teams with little trouble. The Cavs did it for years and now they're getting it done to them.
When opponents are actually trying and giving full effort, they can run the Cavs off the floor -- just like the Blazers did in scoring 22 straight points in the first quarter last week and the Magic did tonight in scoring 18 of the last 22 in the first quarter.
Scott can try shaking up the lineup again, but there aren't any combinations he hasn't tried before. Inserting Baron Davis is the only new tactic, but he won't do that on Wednesday with Davis coming off a back injury. Don't be surprised, though, if Davis is the starting point guard by Friday.
Give Scott credit for at least trying to salvage the final 13 games of this season. Truthfully, though, the offseason can't get here fast enough.
J.J. Hickson 18 points, six rebounds
Daniel Gibson 16 points
Christian Eyenga 12 points
Ramon Sessions nine points, six rebounds, six assists
Dwight Howard 28 points, 18 rebounds
Brandon Bass 22 points
Ryan Anderson 12 points
Jason Richardson 11 points
The Magic outscored the Cavs 18-4 over the final five minutes to take a 30-15 lead into the second quarter. The Cavs never recovered.
The Cavs have trailed by double figures at the end of the first quarter in four of the last five games.
They said it
"Everything is kind of a jog. It’s not done with any purprose right now. Only thing you can do is mix up the lineups. The thing these guys really understand is minutes. That’s the biggest thing right now. If you’re not playing as hard as I think you can play, then come over and take a seat with us." -- coach Byron Scott, on possible lineup changes before Wednesday's game against the Nets
The Cavs (13-56) host the New Jersey Nets (22-47) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.