CLEVELAND: Twelve thoughts tonight, twice as many points scored in the third quarter of a terrible 99-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns…
1. The Cavs are all too familiar with blowing 20-point leads, particularly against the Phoenix Suns. They blew a 26-point lead and lost to the Suns early last season in what was at the time the biggest blown lead in franchise history. Not to be outdone, they blew a 27-point lead to the Heat near the end of the season and lost again. In between was a 22-point blown lead in a loss to the Knicks.
2. That’s three blown leads of 20 points or more last season, which contributed to Byron Scott’s firing. The Cavs would’ve had two losses after leading by 20 or more this season, but Kevin Love missed a wide open 3-pointer at the buzzer early in the season to allow the Cavs to escape with a 93-92 win after leading by 23 in the first half.
3. This was a 20-point lead with less than a minute left in the first half, but by the middle of the third quarter it was painfully obvious to see the direction this night was headed. Kyrie Irving said flatly no, the players didn’t believe the game was over at halftime. But they played like they did.
4. “Our guys should be embarrassed by the way we played in the second half,” Mike Brown said. And he’s right. The Cavs scored 29 points in the first quarter, then scored 29 in the second half.
5. I’m getting tired of writing the same things over and over, but nothing has really changed. I still think this team is too soft both mentally and physically, but particularly mentally, and they don’t understand how to handle even the least bit of success.
6. The Suns shot 39 percent in the third quarter. They only made nine shots, but five of them were 3-pointers. The Suns missed their first three shots of the third quarter. More accurately, Gerald Green missed the Suns’ first three shots of the third quarter.
7. As C.J. Miles told me after the game, had the Cavs hit a few quick buckets to start the third quarter, this could’ve gone completely the other way. The Suns went scoreless for the first 2 ½ minutes of the third quarter, plenty of time for the Cavs to turn that 18-point lead into a 25 or 30-point lead. Instead, the Cavs missed their first seven shots before Channing Frye began the 3-point barrage and the Cavs missed their first nine shots of the quarter.
8. If a couple of those early shots falls, the Cavs could’ve perhaps broken the will of the Suns. Instead, they gained more confident with every 3-pointer.
9. Irving was terrific in the first quarter, then he disappeared. He had 6 assists within the game’s first six minutes, scored 7 points in the first quarter, defended well and appeared to be playing with a purpose. I’m not sure what happened after that. He wasn’t as sharp defensively in the second half (no one was) and he took the blame for leaving Frye open at the top of the 3-point line for a crucial 3-pointer in the game’s final minute when the Cavs still had a chance. That 3-pointer was the death blow.
10. A lot was made of my column in Sunday’s Beacon Journal on Irving. It wasn’t my intent to skewer him or “go after” him. I just think we’ve reached the point where he has to take accountability for some of this stuff. Tonight is another great example. Stars aren’t supposed to let their teams blow 20-point leads and lose games. Irving keeps saying all the right things in interviews, such as taking the blame for leaving Frye open. But until that talk is conveyed into action…
11. Brown said he thought the effort was there in the second half, but not the focus. Luol Deng said the Cavs have to play good, cohesive basketball for at least 46 of the 48 minutes to win. That seems like a lot. Miles previously told me it needs to be in the high 30s/low 40s. Right now the Cavs are probably consistently playing good basketball for only 28-32 minutes a game. That simply isn’t long enough to be successful.
12. This is a bad loss. I’ve written that a lot this year, but throw this one on the pile. This was a big five-game homestand, but the Cavs are 1-3 with Tuesday’s finale against the Pelicans. Then it’s on the road for three tough games at the Knicks on national television Thursday, at the Rockets and Mavericks. Meanwhile, time on this season is tick, tick, ticking away. See you Tuesday.