CLEVELAND: All the momentum, all the goodwill and all the positive energy the Cavaliers created last week with a mini winning streak came crashing to a thud Tuesday against a short-handed Golden State Warriors team playing its final night on an East Coast trip.
The defense was lethargic, the All-Star point guard was sick and the result was a 108-95 loss to a Warriors team playing without three starters and a key reserve.
Before the game, coach Byron Scott called the Warriors a “wounded animal” that would come out fighting, which is exactly what happened against a Cavs team that wasn’t ready for a fight.
“I didn’t think we had the energy tonight,” Scott said. “Just didn’t play with the energy and that sense of urgency. They came out aggressive and we were on our heels all night long.”
With leading scorer Stephen Curry among those sidelined, second-year guard Klay Thompson scored a career-high 32 points while playing the entire second half. The Warriors shot 54 percent, made 11-of-16 3-pointers (69 percent) and outplayed a Cavs team trying to win four straight and complete a month at .500. Neither of those has occurred since Scott took over as coach.
Kyrie Irving missed the morning shootaround because he was ill, and while he tried to play through it, he clearly wasn’t himself. Irving scored 14 points, but shot just 5-of-17. He was just 3-of-11 in the second half.
“I just wasn’t myself out there in terms of my mental focus, but that’s no excuse. I don’t want to make excuses,” Irving said.
“They just kicked our butts tonight.”
Scott has said for weeks that the team responds well to Irving’s aggressiveness, and struggles when he struggles. That was evident immediately when the Warriors raced out to a 13-4 lead and extended it to 13 before the half.
“I was trying to find something, something deep within. But I just couldn’t find it,” Irving said.
“Couldn’t hit a shot. That’s basically the game for me, personally. Just feeling like crap.”
Thompson takes over
With their leader ailing, Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cavs couldn’t find a spark anywhere. Dion Waiters had 18 points and seven assists, Tyler Zeller had 16 points and Marreese Speights had 12 points off the bench.
But the Cavs couldn’t contend with Thompson, who ripped Alonzo Gee on one of Gee’s worst nights at both ends. He went scoreless for the first time since his first season with the Cavs.
“It’s tough when you’re picking up the ball full court and chasing a guy all around, your legs kind of die,” Gee said.
“Especially when you’re doing it the whole night. Just have to figure out a way to get the ball in the basket.”
The Cavs trailed by as many as 16, but cut the deficit to 97-89 on a layup from Shaun Livingston with 3:26 left. But the Warriors’ Jarrett Jack, subbing for Curry, made a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and followed with another basket to extend the lead back to 14.
The Warriors received plenty of career nights.
In addition to Thompson’s career high in points, Kent Bazemore scored a career-high nine points and Jack tied his career high with 12 assists. He also scored 26 points, while David Lee had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Lee played 39 minutes and Thompson played 43 minutes for the Warriors.
In addition to Curry, the Warriors were without center Andrew Bogut and small forward Harrison Barnes, who injured his knee in Monday’s loss at Toronto.
“The last thing I told them [before the game] was when you have that many guys out, other guys get an opportunity and those guys are looking forward to that opportunity,” Scott said.
“You’ve got to treat it like it’s a wounded animal that’s in the corner. Has no choice, it’s going to come out fighting. If we don’t match that intensity and effort, it’s going to be a long night. That’s basically what happened.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.