CLEVELAND: It was only a week ago when Byron Scott walked into the Cavs’ locker room and told the players he hoped it was the final time he had to address issues regarding effort and energy level.
He thought they had finally opened their eyes to life in the NBA, understood teams have to play hard the whole night regardless of who is hurt and who is dressed for the opposing team. He thought his players had finally grasped the importance of effort and energy.
He was wrong.
“They haven’t learned,” Scott said Monday. “That’s obvious. They haven’t learned.”
All of the progress and momentum from the most recent three-game winning streak was swept out of Quicken Loans Arena with Monday’s embarrassing 100-92 loss to the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves.
It was just their third win in their last 18 games and it ended an eight-game losing streak on the road. The Timberwolves are without six regulars, including two of their top three leading scorers. But they didn’t need Kevin Love to beat a Cavs team that was completely disinterested in playing defense.
The Timberwolves shot 64 percent in the second half and made 10 of their first 11 shots to start the fourth quarter. Luke Ridnour scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth.
“It was terrible in the second half,” Scott said. “I wouldn’t even call it defense.”
Kyrie Irving had 20 points and seven assists, but limped off the court late in the second quarter when he rolled his ankle after landing on Alexy Shved’s foot on his follow through off a shot. Irving returned for the start of the third quarter, but made just 1-of-5 shots in the fourth.
He was getting treatment after the game and was unavailable to speak to reporters, although the Cavs said the ankle isn’t expected to be an issue going forward.
Tristan Thompson had 16 points and nine rebounds and Dion Waiters had 12 points and didn’t miss a shot. He made all six of his attempts, but also turned it over six times and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs tied the game at 76 three minutes into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t take the lead. Ridnour’s jumper with 3:55 left put the Timberwolves back up by nine. When the Cavs made another run to cut it to 92-89 with 1:56 left, the Timberwolves responded with a 3-pointer from Ridnour and a jumper from Ricky Rubio to put the game away.
“What I saw tonight is we had a little adversity and we scattered,” Scott said. “We don’t come together. We go our separate ways. Now is that youth and inexperience? I guess you can blame it on both of those, but we go our separate ways when it gets tough and you can’t do that.”
C.J. Miles sees it, too. He sees guys not picking up their teammates after mistakes and instead trying to cash in.
“I think guys get to a point where you get focused on, ‘What can I do to get mine if we’re going to lose the game?’ I think that’s where you start scattering,” Miles said. “It’s not so much about a guy missed an open shot and you pat him on the butt and tell him make the next one or a guy turns it over or it slips out of his hands and you tell him, ‘We’re good’ and move on to the next play. You don’t see that as much. You see heads go down, body language changes and the shoulders drop. That’s the biggest thing. You look and see five guys on the floor with their shoulders down, that’s when you start seeing everybody kind of go, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’ ”
Boiling hot Scott
The Cavs’ final game before the All-Star break is Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that began the week with the league’s best record and a team the Cavs haven’t beaten in nearly three years.
The break can’t get here fast enough for some of the Cavs’ younger players, particularly Tyler Zeller, who went scoreless in 25 minutes and took just two shots. Zeller is now just 1-of-5 over his last three games. Meanwhile, Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic had 16 points and 10 rebounds against him.
Scott was livid after the game, but didn’t explode on his team in the locker room. He’ll likely save that for today’s practice.
“It’s boiling inside of me now and I didn’t let it out in the locker room after the game,” Scott said. “Going through the film tomorrow, I’m going to get hot. They’ll probably hear me. Not a very good mood tomorrow.”
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.