MINNEAPOLIS: Nineteen final thoughts tonight, one for every point the Cavs scored in the fourth quarter on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at Target Center
1. Jarrett Jack said there is usually two games a year where a team “comes out in a funk and just doesn’t have it.” Clearly he hasn’t been around for the last three years, because the Cavs had multiple games when they looked this bad.
2. Watching the Timberwolves smack around the Cavs tonight made me harken back to 2010-11 season, when the Cavs came to Minneapolis two nights after they were destroyed at the Q by the Miami Heat in LeBron James’ initial return game. They were blown out by 34 against a bad Timberwolves team and the season kept careening into the abyss.
3. I do not get the same sense leaving here tonight that I had that night. This team has much, much more talent. It just hasn’t really shown yet.
4. I get the anger, I get the frustration from the fan base over the start to the season. A 3-6 record is not a good start, especially since the Cavs have given away winnable games against bad teams. But there is no magic bullet to fire or magic pill to swallow. This is the 2013-14 Cavaliers, for better or worse, and fans have little choice right now but to endure the worse in hopes of the better coming around the bend.
5. This is a very good Timberwolves team, but they’re not 29 points better than the Cavs. Of all the stats you can pick out from tonight, I thought the worst was the lopsided 29-6 in transition. That’s just guys not getting back fast enough. I’m well aware of how good Kevin Love is at chest passes. He could fire a chest pass from the Target Center in Minneapolis and hit home plate at the minor league baseball stadium in St. Paul. But for the Cavs to give up so many points in transition and get so few typically shows a lack of effort. Of course, when you’re allowing the opponent to shoot 55 percent, it doesn’t allow for many fast break opportunities.
6. They’re still only nine games in. There are 73 games left to go. Ten games is typically the first benchmark of the season, and a win Friday at home against the Bobcats makes them 4-6. Certainly not terrific, but not sound the alarms, women and children first off the ship kind of bad, either.
7. The Brooklyn Nets were expected to challenge for a championship this season, yet they were beaten on the road Wednesday by a bad Sacramento Kings team by 21 points. They’re now 2-5 (0-4 on the road) after making big upgrades to their roster over the summer and changing coaches. The Pistons and Wizards, like the Cavs, were expected to be dramatically improved and fighting for a playoff spot after making big upgrades (and the Pistons made a coaching change, too). But the Pistons and Wizards are the two worst teams in the East right now and a combined 4-11. The Cavs, by comparison, are a game ahead of both, 11th in the East and a game out of the final playoff spot. It’s way, way too early to start looking at playoff positioning, it’s just an indication that as bad as it might look on the night of a 29-point loss, there is still a loooong way to go. Teams that overhaul their roster and make coaching changes need time to figure things out.
8. This is the second time already Mike Brown has surprised me in his postgame remarks. I wasn’t expecting him to call the Pacers game the Cavs’ best offensive execution of the season (they shot 35 percent) and I wasn’t expecting him to be so calm and collected after allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 55 percent tonight. But Brown has dropped a couple classic rips on this team already, so I don’t think he’s sugar-coating or spinning anything.
9. Brown said he liked some of the things he heard tonight, on the bench, in the huddles and in the locker room. Since none of us were there, we have to take him at his word and believe him. The next four games are against the Bobcats, Wizards (for two) and Pelicans. Those three teams have a combined record of 9-16. They’re all winnable games. The Cavs need to get three of the four, if not all four to start feeling good about themselves.
10. Jack was clearly one of the players Brown was referring to when he said he liked some of the things he was hearing. Jack gathered a handful of players, including Alonzo Gee and Matthew Dellavedova, near the corner of the court before the start of the third quarter and gave them an animated speech. He did the same during the fourth quarter, when time was short and the loss was imminent. Part of the reason the Cavs wanted Jack was for his leadership. This is when they really need it.
11. “I’m sure you get tired of hearing the same song I do,” Jack said. “It sounds like a broken record every game. Unless it comes to a point where we want to put a stop to this, nobody is going to put a stop to it for us, it’s going to continue to happen.”
12. He’s right. Here’s more. “We have guys in this locker room who really, really care about one another and about the game. They just know that what we’re doing right now isn’t getting it done. It’s a good wake-up call for us. Hopefully it happening early is better than happening late in the season.”
13. And one more from Jack: “These are the times I actually like the most because you find out who’s who and who’s made of what. It’s easy to separate when things get difficult. It’s tough to really rally around one another when everyone who was on your bandwagon is probably jumping off. That’s what we have to understand. It’s us 15 guys in this locker room. We’re the only ones who control our own destiny. That’s the beautiful thing about it. But if it doesn’t come to a point where we realize what we’re doing isn’t helping us be successful it’s going to keep going.” Jack said he believed the Cavs have reached that point. We’ll see.
14. Personally, I liked Nene’s line better after another loss for the Wizards on Wednesday, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Michael Lee: “Our young guys must take their heads out of their butts … because I’m getting tired of this.” Seems fitting for this Cavs team, too.
15. For those wondering what the spat between Brown and Kyrie Irving was about Monday night at Chicago, a team source told me Irving ignored Brown and walked past him when Mike was trying to tell him something after Irving exited the game late in the first quarter. Brown wasn’t going to be disrespected by a player like that and followed Irving to the end of the bench and chewed him out, telling him in essence that if Brown gives Irving the respect to listen to him when the star has something to say, then Irving better give his head coach the same respect. Hence, Brown’s comment the other day that he’s going to coach all the guys the same way. Like I wrote earlier, he didn’t back down from Kobe Bryant, he certainly isn’t going to back down from Irving.
16. I don’t know what to think about Anthony Bennett right now. In a game he should have been able to play big minutes in the fourth quarter, do some things right and start to feel better about himself, the exact opposite happened. He blew a layup in the first half, then after the Timberwolves scored in transition (shocker), he compounded it with a lazy inbound pass that was stolen for another easy basket. Then he missed a wide open, uncontested dunk in the fourth quarter, shot 3 of 11 for the game and doesn’t appear any closer to digging his way out of this season-long slump.
17. The Cavs have two options with Bennett: sit him or play him. The D-League hasn’t even started yet and I don’t think that type of move is realistic. That would be more damaging to his psyche than these current struggles.
18. The other first-round pick, Sergey Karasev, looked all right in 14 minutes. I think Karasev is inching closer to cracking this rotation. I don’t think Brown expected to have to go to him this early in the season, but both the coaches and front office like what they’ve seen so far out of him. I still don’t believe anyone in the organization believes he’s the answer at small forward (he’s not physically strong enough to handle the spot defensively), but if the Cavs can run out a three-guard lineup, they can find some minutes for Karasev. I’m not sure when it will happen, but I’d think he could get a legitimate look sooner than later.
19. In the last five quarters against the Timberwolves, the Cavs have been outscored 155-112. At least they won’t have to see them again until next season. Or the NBA Finals.