By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
ATLANTA: Kyrie Irving sat dressed and ready at his locker Friday night waiting for reporters to enter and ask him where his shot has gone. He knew it was coming after his first scoreless NBA game.
He missed all nine shots he took in the Cavs’ 108-89 pounding at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. He also missed his final five shots of Wednesday’s win against the Denver Nuggets, meaning Irving has missed his last 14 shots and hasn’t scored a basket since 4:44 remained in the third quarter Wednesday.
“There wasn’t one look I didn’t like,” Irving said. “I only shot nine times, I thought I shot more. They were all good misses for me, but it happens.”
For Irving, it’s been happening all too frequently this season. His miserable night dropped his season shooting percentage below 40 percent (39.4). That’s down significantly from his 45 percent last season, which was down slightly from his 47 percent his rookie season.
He insists he isn’t hurt and doesn’t see anything mechanically wrong with his shot despite a funk that is only deepening.
“I’m not shooting the best this year, but I’m getting the shots that I want and that’s all you can ask for,” he said. “You can look back and try to fix things, but at the end of the day I play off instincts. Sometimes I’m out there thinking too much, but you’ve just got to play basketball. The confidence level has to remain the same for myself and my teammates.”
Irving missed three more 3-pointers Friday to drop his percentage to exactly 30 percent (27 of 90) and it has even extended to the free-throw line. He was an 86 percent free-throw shooter through his first two seasons, but he missed three more Friday to fall to 78 percent this season. He missed 42 free throws all last season. He has already missed 20 through 19 games.
Brown, however, insists he isn’t concerned over Irving’s sudden inability to make a basket.
“I’m not worried about his shot,” Brown said. “It’s fine. He’s going to make enough shots, he’s going to score enough points for us to win games. I just want our overall defense and grittiness and all that stuff to be better.”
Irving’s offensive problems were a microcosm of the Cavs’ struggles Friday. Dion Waiters was terrific with a season-high 30 points, falling three shy of his career high. Andrew Bynum had 20 points and 13 rebounds, his third consecutive game with big numbers. Waiters and Bynum were a combined 22 of 34 shooting. The rest of the team combined to shoot 16 of 60 (27 percent).
The Cavs trailed by as many as 29 early in the third quarter, but cut the deficit to 84-72 on a 3-pointer from Matthew Dellavedova with 10:13 to play. That’s as close as they got.
The game really slipped away in the final two minutes of the first quarter. The Cavs only trailed 27-18 with 1:47 left, but the Hawks scored 10 points in the last 1:31. A 50-foot heave from Paul Millsap at the quarter buzzer pushed the lead to 37-20 and the Cavs never recovered.
“Every time a team throws the first punch, we lay down,” Waiters said. “Instead of just playing, guys have their head down and we’re moping.”
The loss dropped the Cavs to a pitiful 1-10 on the road, making them the first NBA team to 10 road losses this season. But the Utah Jazz played at Portland later Friday with the chance to tie the Cavs’ woeful road mark.
“With a young team, we’re going to have lulls like this,” Brown said. ‘Hopefully we don’t have as many in a row as we’re having now going forward. But I’m going to keep coaching. Guys, hopefully, are going to keep trying to play hard and do what we ask until we can figure out how to get this thing right on the road.”
Brown yanked Irving five minutes into the third quarter with the Cavs down 29 and didn’t play him the rest of the night. Brown said aside from a second unit that consisted of Waiters, Dellavedova and Jarrett Jack, he thought the Cavs simply didn’t play hard enough to win. That has been the chorus for terrible Cavs teams each of the last two seasons and it doesn’t seem to be changing.
“We’re not a good enough team to just come out the way we came out,” Waiters said. “It’s frustrating having to keep talking about the same thing over and over instead of just going out there and doing it.”
The Hawks’ Kyle Korver set an NBA record with his 3-pointer with 5:29 left in the first quarter. It was his 90th consecutive game with a 3, breaking the previous record set by the Boston Celtics’ Dana Barros.
Tyler Zeller needed five stitches to close a gash above his left eye. He was hit during the first half, but was able to return to the game. It has been a difficult season for Zeller, who missed nearly all of training camp with a hip injury and then appendicitis. Now he’ll have a black eye, too, which is a fairly accurate illustration of the Cavs’ season.
Or there’s this: As Brown began addressing reporters Friday, the backdrop fell down on top of him. As the NBA season rounds the quarter-pole, it’s starting to feel like the curtain is crashing on the Cavs, too.
“Superman is not coming in the locker room to help us,” Waiters said. “It’s just us and we’re all we got.”
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.