SALT LAKE CITY: Twice on the Cavaliers’ recent West Coast trip, Kyrie Irving referenced the team’s soft mentality. Toughness became a theme for coach Byron Scott, too.
There are different definitions for toughness and soft. It can relate to the players’ mentality as well as their physical stature. In truth, the Cavs would benefit from improvement in both areas.
Scott continues to lament the team’s awful starts to the second half. He concluded on the trip that the players are approaching the second half with a mentality not to lose games rather than pursue victory.
“We come out almost on our heels thinking that the other team is just going to go away instead of going out to win the game,” Scott said. “Much like in football, you go to a prevent defense and it prevents you from winning. I think it’s the same mentality with us right now. We come out in the third quarter with a nice little lead and we’re just looking at the clock hoping it’s going to run out, playing not to lose a basketball game instead of just going and taking it.”
Leading or trailing, the Cavs have struggled in the second half of games. They have been outscored, on average, by less than 1 point per game in the first half. But in second halves, they’re getting outscored by 5 points and are now just 1-20 when trailing at the half.
“Our guys want to get it going, we just don’t,” Irving said. “We talk about it. Then teams make shots and we don’t respond. … Coming out in that third and fourth quarter, we just get soft.”
Irving is still learning when to get aggressive in looking for his shot and when to worry about getting his teammates involved. Irving came out firing at Portland, scoring 15 points in the first quarter. It proved to be the Cavs’ only victory on the trip.
He struggled miserably with his shot Saturday at Utah, finishing 7-of-20 after missing 6-of-7 shots in the first quarter. Even Scott acknowledged on this trip sometimes it’s difficult to remember Irving is only in his second season and he’s still learning when to attack and when to facilitate.
“I’m still figuring that out,” Irving said. “I’m trying to figure out what my team needs me to do in that situation.”
The 109-98 loss to the Jazz on Saturday marked the start of the season’s second half. As for what improvements Scott would like to see moving forward, he’s keeping it fairly simple.
“The biggest thing we have to work on is consistency, and that’s really in the effort department,” he said. “We have great effort at times and then we have little lulls. That feeling of coming out and trying not to lose, which is almost a soft, laid-back mentality instead of trying to win, which is an aggressive, go-get-it mentality. We have to get that go-get-it mentality.”
As for the toughness issue, Scott isn’t expecting any miracles.
“It ain’t going to happen overnight,” he said, “and I don’t think that’s going to happen in the second half.”
Let Pargo Dunk
Jeremy Pargo has taken to social media to promote himself for this year’s dunk contest, specifically using Twitter and the hashtag #LetPargoDunk. It’s working, but it’s not yet enough.
Pargo said recently he spoke to his agent, Mark Bartelstein, who has been in contact with the league over Pargo’s dunk chances.
“They said I’m on their list, but right now I’m not in their top four,” Pargo said.
Only four dunkers are invited to All-Star weekend.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.