BOSTON: The Cavaliers can only miss so many open shots. They can only blow so many layups. They can only look absolutely inept on offense for so long.
Common sense would indicate sooner or later, the Cavs would have to figure out something offensively. The results, however, are proving otherwise.
They blew 10 layups in the first quarter Friday, fell behind by 16 points just 6½ minutes into the game and lost 103-86 to the Boston Celtics in another miserable road performance.
They’ve lost five in a row and continue to sink deeper in the East. They’ve lost nine of 10 road games this season. Most importantly, they seem to be losing their way.
“There’s not a single guy in this locker room that wants to go through this,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “This is tough to deal with, tough to swallow. I just know one thing. I’m going to keep searching and fighting and working until we find something that fits or works.”
Kyrie Irving had 17 points, Dion Waiters had 21 points and Anderson Varejao had 10 points and 12 rebounds, but the Cavs fell behind 18-2 against another Eastern Conference weakling and never recovered. The Celtics shot 61 percent in the first half and carried a 55-39 lead into the locker room. The deficit swelled to 25 in the third quarter.
Irving and Waiters combined for 10 turnovers and nine assists.
“It starts with me,” Irving said. “I’ve just got to be better and I will be a lot better.”
Brown shuffled his lineup again, starting rookie Sergey Karasev at shooting guard while C.J. Miles remains sidelined with a calf injury. It was the seventh different starting lineup in 15 games, but made little difference in a season already circling the drain.
Willing to try anything in search of a spark, Brown tried Anthony Bennett at small forward for an eight-minute stretch in the second quarter. The Cavs had previously said Bennett was strictly a power forward this year, but he was shooting 21 percent there and fell out of Brown’s rotation.
Bennett made his first shot at small forward — a 3-pointer — but it was his only basket of the night and he surrendered nine points to the Celtics’ Jeff Green in a little less than eight minutes. Green scored a season-high 31 points and Jordan Crawford had his second triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
When Brown reinserted Bennett in the second half, it was back at his more familiar power forward spot.
“It was an experiment,” Brown said. “We may continue to play him there [at small forward] to experiment with him. But obviously it’s going to be a work in progress.”
Brown insisted in recent days he has seen the Cavs make progress, but argued it was difficult to spot while facing the two teams who met in last season’s NBA Finals. Yet against the young and inexperienced Celtics, the Cavs looked like the same team they have been much of the season — particularly offensively. They shot 37 percent, committed 19 turnovers and never led in the rout. They ended the night with 13 assists, just three more than Crawford had himself.
“One thing I know I have to have with this team that I’m going to have with this team is patience,” Brown said. “This is a work in progress. It’s going to be that way the entire year.”
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.