BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving were both named to the All-Star ballot early Tuesday. They showed why in a losing performance Tuesday night.
Varejao had a career-high 35 points and 18 rebounds and Irving had a career-high 34 points in the Cavaliers’ 114-101 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Varejao and Irving were sensational offensively, while the rest of their teammates again struggled.
Before the Cavaliers played the finale of this six-city, 6,000 mile excursion, coach Byron Scott huddled with his coaches and told them not to even mention this being the end of the road trip and going home so as not to plant that seed in the players’ minds. But maybe they should’ve mentioned defense again.
Scott was furious with the defensive effort, which allowed the Nets to score 114 points and shoot 55 percent when they began the night averaging 93 points and shooting 43 percent.
Opponents shot better than 50 percent from the floor in five of the six games on this trip, which is why Scott summed up the road trip as “terrible.”
“There was nothing there defensively,” Scott said. “We’ve got to get more guys who are going to be competitive and passionate about the defensive end. Right now we’ve got three: Boobie [Daniel] Gibson, Alonzo Gee and Anderson Varejao. We’ve got to get other guys to join into the party. It’s as simple as that.”
Aside from the defense, the bench players continue to be a glaring concern. The Cavs’ reserves mustered just six points Tuesday, and the final stop on this trip looked eerily similar to the first five. The starters kept the Cavs in the game, and the bench players let it get away.
The Cavaliers dug too big of a hole in the second quarter and spent the rest of the night unsuccessfully trying to escape.
“They hit us in the mouth on both ends of the floor,” Irving said of the second quarter. “We weren’t executing and it’s hard to fight back against a good team.”
The Cavs stumble home with one victory on the six-game trip. They were competitive in most of them, but the final two games were not close.
They held a 30-29 lead after the first quarter Tuesday, but managed just 12 points in the second as the Nets carried a healthy 64-42 lead into the half.
Varejao and Irving did their best offensively to bring the Cavs back in the second half. Scott ignored his bench players in the third quarter and played all five starters the whole way. The Cavs were able to slice the deficit down to 10 entering the fourth, but couldn’t get any closer.
“We’re not going to outscore everybody,” Scott said. “We’ve got some weapons offensively that can score, but if we want to play that way, we’re not going to be very successful this year.”
The fact that Scott left Irving off his list of those playing well defensively was telling. Scouts have been lamenting Irving’s defensive effort since the start of his career. Irving recently conceded in a recent interview his defense last season was lousy, but vowed this year would be different. Told of Scott’s comments, Irving agreed.
“I’m probably a C right now,” Irving said. “Maybe I do need to climb on board.”
Irving’s 34 points surpassed his previous high of 32, which was also set against the Nets in a losing effort last season. Varejao’s 35 points smashed his previous high of 26 points set four seasons ago against the Chicago Bulls.
“I just tried to be really active, tried to be aggressive on offense,” Varejao said.
Scott has complained a lot about the Cavs’ defensive effort over most of this trip. Now that they don’t have another game until Saturday, the majority of the focus in practice the next couple of days will be on the defensive end.
“We’ve got three more days before our next game,” Scott said. “I can promise you we will work on it a hell of a lot the next three days. A hell of a lot.”
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.