CLEVELAND: As he pulled the team together in the locker room for the final time Wednesday night, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott reminded his players they have been here before.
There was the six-game losing skid that spanned the All-Star break, the 10-game losing streak from last year and, of course, the motherlode 26-game losing streak last season that tied the record for worst in professional sports history.
By comparison, losing five straight and tying a season low in points isn’t all that bad, after all.
The Cavs fell 87-75 to the shorthanded Detroit Pistons on a Wednesday night when the Pistons were without two of their best players. The Cavs shot just 35 percent, blew a high number of shots in the paint and lost for the eighth time in their last nine games to fall behind the Pistons in the standings.
The Cavaliers (17-31) are now the seventh-worst team in the league, and the Sacramento Kings (17-32) are right behind them in sixth place.
In the grand scheme of lottery odds and high draft picks, that’s not so bad. But with 18 games left in the season, there could be plenty of misery ahead.
“We’ve been through this before and we’ve been through worse,” said Scott, who celebrated his 51st birthday with the loss. “The only thing we have to do is continue to stay together as a team and keep encouraging each other and keep fighting. That’s all you can do.”
Kyrie Irving and Antawn Jamison accounted for more than half of the Cavs’ offense. Irving had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Jamison had 17 points. No one else scored in double figures, and the rest of the team combined for 36 points.
Irving started fast with 12 points in the first quarter before the Pistons began sagging on defense and clogging the lane, similar to how the Philadelphia 76ers defended him on Tuesday. Irving shot just 5-of-13 after the first quarter.
This whole concept of losing is new to him. Irving played on highly successful teams in high school and enjoyed an NCAA Tournament run during his one season at Duke, one of the most storied college programs in history. To be stumbling on a team that mustered just 31 points in the second half Wednesday, including 14 in the fourth quarter, is foreign territory.
This is the first time that Irving has ever been part of a losing team in his life.
“It’s definitely a learning experience for me,” he said. “We just have to become more of a consistent team every single night.”
Tayshaun Prince tied his season high with 29 points one night after the Sixers’ Jodie Meeks set a career high against the Cavaliers with 31 points. Prince reverted back to his prime of five years ago on a night the Pistons were without Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey.
Gordon sat out the game with a groin injury and Stuckey left early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. Brandon Knight scored 16 points and Jason Maxiell had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Pistons.
A big problem for the Cavs has been the bench play. Scott has been tentative to use the reserves for long stretches and played Irving, Jamison and Alonzo Gee for the entire third quarter.
The Cavs entered the fourth trailing 68-61 and the three on the bench, but the reserves held on this time. When all three re-entered, the deficit was still seven points in part because both teams went nearly three minutes in the fourth quarter without scoring a point.
Scott was hoping the starters had one last run in them, but the Pistons denied them to end the Cavs’ four-game winning streak in this series.
The Cavs will take today off before hosting Milwaukee on Friday and traveling to New York on Saturday. It’s a difficult grind that isn’t slowing anytime soon.
“I don’t see this group quitting,” Scott said. “We’re going to keep playing and keep fighting. It’s the only thing we know.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.