CLEVELAND: The Cavs have enough problems beating the Chicago Bulls these days without their best players making errors. So it became evident early on the Cavs were in real trouble Wednesday when Alonzo Gee, one of the team’s defensive pillars, was yanked two minutes into the game for a defensive miscue and Anderson Varejao had three turnovers in his first nine minutes.
The undermanned Cavs lost their 10th straight to the Bulls, 95-85, when they were again forced to play without their starting backcourt of Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. Waiters missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle, and with 40 percent of their offense on the bench, the Cavs again struggled to score.
They shot 37 percent and for the second consecutive game fell into a huge hole early that was too large to overcome. Coach Byron Scott shuffled his starting lineup again, removing Omri Casspi and inserting Daniel Gibson, in an effort to avoid the 30-17 hole the Cavs fell in during Monday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons.
It didn’t exactly work. The Cavs trailed 27-11 after the first quarter Wednesday and failed to recover despite their best efforts.
“I’m proud of our guys. They’re battling. They’re playing as hard as they can right now,” Scott said. “We’ve got to play a damn near perfect game on both ends of the floor. The effort has been great and it was great tonight. We just have to keep working. It’s the only thing we can do.”
The Cavs actually outscored the Bulls 74-68 over the final three quarters, but it mattered little. They managed just five baskets and turned it over seven times in falling behind in the first quarter.
The Cavs have dropped seven of their last eight games, including some crushing losses during that stretch to the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers in double overtime. But Scott isn’t too concerned that all of the losses will impact his players mentally and beat them down because of guys like Anderson Varejao and Gibson, who endured the Cavs’ historic 26-game losing streak a few years ago.
“They never wavered,” Scott said. “I’m not so worried about that because I know those two guys are going to keep fighting, I know the young guys don’t know any different but to go out there and fight.”
At 4-15, the Cavaliers now have the second-worst record behind only the Washington Wizards, who stunned the Heat on Tuesday for their second win of the season. The Cavs could easily have a couple more victories, but they’re struggling without their scoring leaders and simply looking for a way to survive.
Waiters left the arena in a walking boot, but it was only to keep his sprained ankle immobile. He is listed as day to day and Irving is expected to miss another couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers trudge on.
“You just have to come out every day and compete,” said Tristan Thompson, who had 11 points and five rebounds. “Things will eventually fall our way. A lot of games we lost this year went down to the wire and could’ve gone either way. You have to keep having faith and keep competing. Sooner or later it’s going to come around.”
One of the lone bright spots was Varejao, who extended his streak of consecutive double-doubles to 10 games with 11 points and 15 rebounds. He can tie the team record set by Elmore Smith with a double-double in Friday’s game at Minnesota. Even more impressive, he has grabbed at least 15 rebounds in every game during the streak, but Wednesday night it was a struggle. He shot just 4 of 16 and seemed bothered by Noah, who plays with the same motor and energy as Varejao. The feeling is mutual.
“He’s a hard-playing dude,” Noah said. “I got to give credit where credit is due. I really respect him on and off the court. Brazilians are usually pretty cool people.”
There was minor excitement late when Jeremy Pargo was whistled for a technical for smacking Marco Belinelli in the face with the ball. Belinelli fouled him on the fast break and Pargo flipped the ball behind him without looking, catching Belinelli on the chin. Pargo was given a technical for hitting him in the face.
“I was fouled, pushed in the back, but I wasn’t sure if they were calling the foul or not and I didn’t want to land out of bounds with the ball,” Pargo said. “I threw the ball trying to save it. I didn’t mean to hit the man in the face.”
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.