INDEPENDENCE: For nearly 46 games, Alonzo Gee has been chasing point guards from baseline to baseline. He’s defended shooting guards and power forwards. He has tried keeping up with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Paul Pierce.
Finally, all of that work might be catching up with him.
Gee had one of the worst performances of his Cavs career in the loss Tuesday to the Golden State Warriors. He missed all five of his shots, going scoreless for the first time since his first year in Cleveland. He was also torched defensively by Klay Thompson, who got off to a quick start with Gee defending him and finished with a career-high 32 points.
Gee has taken some lickings defensively this season from Pierce and Bryant, but those are hall of fame players. Thompson, while a terrific shooter, isn’t in that same class.
As the season creeps toward the All-Star break, all the assignments might be starting to wear down their defensive specialist.
“I’m kind of tired,” Gee said. “It’s been tough.”
In the fourth game of the season, Cavs coach Byron Scott hatched the plan for Gee to start defending point guards the length of the court. He knew all too well the type of damage Chris Paul could do to the Cavs, so Scott dispatched the bigger, stronger Gee to swarm him and deny him the ball.
It worked so well, Scott has used the plan throughout the season against explosive point guards. He picks his spots in order to try and save Gee’s legs, and the results are difficult to dispute.
He made life miserable on Portland’s Damian Lillard in a game Lillard really struggled and the Cavs won. He has done it to Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings in a victory and, yes, the Cavs beat the Clippers when Gee held Paul in check. Scott likes to refer to the point guard as the head of the snake. It’s Gee’s job to chop it off.
“It gets everybody up when Zo picks up guys like that. He’s hounding guys. He loves that challenge,” Scott said. “From [the Clippers game] on, we said there’s a lot of guys in this league at that point guard or two-guard position that we feel he can guard, and he’s done a terrific job.”
Scott has been concerned about burning him out, however, and that appears to be happening. Gee complained of having dead legs Tuesday, and it’s evident at both ends.
In a league where the small forward has becoming a scoring position, Gee has reached double figures just once in the past seven games and three times in the past 11. He is averaging 8.6 points since the start of January but is shooting just 35 percent and averaging 5.7 points during the past two weeks.
Gee understands Scott wants his focus to be on defense, but he conceded the lack of scoring bothers him, at times.
“I struggle with that sometimes,” Gee said. “I want to score. Everybody wants to score. I make that choice by [defending]. It’s going to help my team win, so I do it.”
Scott isn’t overly concerned about his off night Tuesday. His expectations for Gee offensively are rather standard: Attack the rim and take open shots when they’re available.
“I don’t want him to think a whole lot out there on offense,” Scott said. “I want it to be just a reaction. Catch it, if you’re open shoot it. If you’re not, drive it. If you can’t get it to the basket, pass it. It’s pretty simple.”
The Cavs have seven games left before the All-Star break, beginning tonight at Detroit. Gee has been asked by friends and teammates if he has any interest in the Slam Dunk contest during All-Star weekend, but his answer is always a quick no.
“I need a break,” he said.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.