By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Despite managing just six points in the third quarter and a season-low 29 points in the second half Sunday, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was more upset with the defensive effort given during the second half of a crushing 99-90 loss in a game the Cavs once led by 20.
The Phoenix Suns shot just 39 percent in the third quarter, but made five 3-pointers in less than four minutes to flip the Cavs’ 18-point halftime lead into a one-point deficit going to the fourth quarter.
“We let our offense affect our defense,” Brown said Monday. “Until you get to a certain level as a team, you have to rely on your defense no matter what, especially when your offense isn’t working. I thought when they hit those 3s, our awareness wasn’t where it should’ve been.”
The Cavs reviewed the entire third quarter as a team during the film session on Tuesday. It wasn’t pretty. They missed their first nine shots and ended the quarter 2-for-22 to produce the lowest scoring quarter in the NBA this season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
But offensively inept quarters aren’t so rare in the NBA. Four times last season an NBA team scored six points or less, according to Elias. The most recent was the Dallas Mavericks’ five-point effort in the third quarter at the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 27, 2013.
After watching the film, Brown said he liked the looks the Cavs had early in the third quarter. Anderson Varejao had an open shot from the elbow and missed, then Luol Deng grabbed the offensive rebound and had a short jumper rattle out.
“It was like every miss offensively we had, we tightened up a little bit more,” Brown said. “The ball’s not going in the hole sometimes, you don’t have control over that. Then you have to step up your pressure defensively and our awareness defensively. We just didn’t do that.”
The bigger picture, of course, is this unsuccessful homestand and the Cavs’ inability to fight through adversity. They blew three leads of 20 points or more last season and lost them all — including a 26-point collapse early last season to those same Suns. At the time, it was the largest blown lead in franchise history that resulted in a loss, but the Cavs did it one better late last season when they blew a 27-point lead to the Miami Heat and lost.
All of that was supposed to change with Brown’s return. Instead, the Cavs narrowly missed blowing a 23-point lead at home early this season against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Love, struggling through an off shooting night, missed a wide open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve given the Wolves the win.
“We’ve got to figure this out, and we’ve got to figure it out quick,” Tristan Thompson said. “We can’t have games like that, especially at home. It’s embarrassing to us, to the fans and the organization to come out like that. We have to take it personal. If we don’t, we’ll have more situations like this.”
Anderson Varejao did not practice on Monday and an MRI confirmed the original diagnosis of a left knee contusion. Varejao injured his knee during the game Sunday, but managed to stay in the game. … Luol Deng missed practice Monday to rest his bothersome Achilles. … No players were available to speak to the media Monday because of a mandatory players union meeting immediately after practice. … Carrick Felix injured his left knee and is scheduled to have an MRI on it.
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.