CLEVELAND — After a team meeting Friday night prompted by the Cavaliers’ lack of second-half energy during their eight-game losing streak, Larry Nance Jr. bared his feelings.
He said there had been no finger-pointing in the conversation after the Cavs were outscored by the Utah Jazz 69-42 in the final two quarters of a 26-point loss, pushing the total eight-game deficit to 99 points, a 12.4 average.
“No. 1 is effort. Our first half is great ... We’ve been hanging in with a lot of really good teams. But second half we come out and lay an egg. I think it’s a lack of execution and heart,” Nance said.
Going into Saturday night’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Cavs’ defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) during the losing streak was 129.4. Overall, it was 113.2, last in the league. Although Nance said he believes the problems are correctable, that’s where he thinks the issue lies.
“It’s not hanging heads,” Nance said. “If my man scores or if you get beat, it’s about, ‘My bad. That’s not happening again.’ It’s about manning up, accountability and doing your job.”
Going into Saturday, opponents were averaging 61 points and shooting 52.4 percent in the final two quarters, compared to the Cavs' 48.6 points and 42.1 percent.
Tristan Thompson said he believes his teammates are motivated to score, but they’re not willing to sacrifice their bodies on defense.
“I think offensively everyone wants to go out there and do their thing,” Thompson said. “I think defensively we gotta fly around. At the end of the day we don’t have the biggest guards, we don’t have the biggest bigs. In order for us to take a stand defensively, we gotta be grimy, we gotta be nasty, we gotta fly around like a chicken with our head cut off, and we didn’t do that in the second half.”
Thompson said the problem is not the plan being drawn up by assistant coach Mike Longabardi, who handles the defense.
“I think it’s a desire to want to defend. I think it’s a desire to want to care,” Thompson said. “I think Longo does a good job with the principles and the schemes because they work. If you do it the right way, you put teams in tough situations, [but] you have to care and want to do it for 48 minutes, not one half.”
Thompson is resigned to the fact that the Cavs are rebuilding, destined for a lottery pick. But he still wants more effort.
“If you played hard and laid it on the line and we have energy and fight and everyone can see that, I think everyone can live better,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, we’re not the team with the most firepower. We know this. For us to be in ballgames or win a ballgame, we’ve got to play damn near a perfect game. If we can compete every night and leave it out there, live with the results, sleep better at night, and win your fair share of games.”
Asked if the players were willing to speak up, coach Larry Drew said, “Every last one of ’em,” although rookie point guard Collin Sexton admitted he did not say anything.
Hood, Delly out
Rodney Hood aggravated his sore left Achilles on Friday night against the Jazz and sat out against the Pelicans, along with backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left foot.
Hood missed four consecutive games with the same injury before returning against the Heat on Wednesday. Against the Jazz, Hood scored a team-high 12 points in the first half, but took only one shot and was shut out in the second half.
Drew said he saw when Dellavedova was hurt a couple of games ago, likely Wednesday against the Heat.
“He tweaked his ankle, his foot. I actually saw it when he did it and he actually kept playing,” Drew said. “The next morning, it was pretty sore.”
During the 164 games (including playoffs), he spent with the Cavs over two-plus seasons, guard Kyle Korver often served as a de facto shooting coach for many teammates.
That ended when the 37-year-old who ranks fourth in league history in 3-pointers made was traded to the Jazz on Nov. 29.
“I’ve kept in contact with a few guys, but not about shooting,” Korver said Friday. “I do enjoy that. I try to do that a little bit in Utah now. That’s part of being a good teammate, offering what we do have to share. Hopefully, some guys pick up some things.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Korver is a natural teacher.
“Sometimes you see in the NFL, the grizzly vet showing the young quarterback how to do something. Kyle’s got the ability to do that and still play,” Snyder said.
Snyder said Korver has been “terrific” for the Jazz. The qualities Snyder said Korver brings are some of what the Cavs have been missing this season.
Asked about Korver’s penchant for diving for loose balls, Snyder joked, “I have to check and makes sure he knows how old he is. It speaks to how he approaches the game. He’s always been a player who’s played every play. Once that’s who you are, it’s ingrained in you. He’ll probably be diving for soccer balls when he’s playing with his kids when he’s older. Hopefully he doesn’t get hurt.”
Korver said he’s happy in his second stint with the Jazz and that his wife, Juliet, and their three children moved to Salt Lake City last week.
“It’s a good fit basketball-wise and it’s a great family place. It’s a beautiful city,” Korver said.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.