Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ latest road setback, a 99-93 disappointment Thursday vs. the Chicago Bulls:
1. Something is seriously wrong with your defending world champions, and it appears they have no clue how to fix it.
2. This may be the worst I’ve seen the Cavs look since LeBron James returned in 2014. Yes, they started that first season 19-20, but at least then you could use the excuse that James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were still getting used to each other.
3. Now? All of this just seems silly, strange.
4. I’m not one for hyperbole or putting too much stock in the regular season. But if the Cavs don’t pull it together, they’re not getting back to the Finals. I don’t care about the supposedly weaker competition in the East.
5. The Cavs (47-27) actually played better defense for most the game Thursday. Of course, they did give up 37 points in the third quarter to the Laugh-a-Bulls — but still, for the first time in about a month, the Cavs’ D wasn’t comically bad.
6. The rebounding? Well, that’s another matter. How a team with James, Love and Tristan Thompson keeps getting beat on the boards we will never know.
7. For the record, the Cavs were out-rebounded by a 51-44 count. James and Love grabbed 10, Thompson nine. Even Channing Frye had seven. So don’t ask me to try to make sense of it.
8. Then again, the overwhelming theme of the Cavs’ three-game skid is that they do make plays — just not important ones. Just not ones that break the opponent’s spirit. Just not ones that really make a difference when it comes to winning and losing.
9. Opponents are treating the Cavs like their own personal NCAA tournament upset bid. The Cavs, on the other hand, are just sort of running around out there.
10. Love had a couple of strong games after returning from knee surgery — but since then, he’s looked lost. He had another weird game Thursday, with eight points, the 10 rebounds, four assists and SIX fouls in just 21 minutes.
11. When Love was on the floor, the Cavs were outscored by 12 points. Again, that all happened in 21 minutes. Again, something is not right with the guy.
12. J.R. Smith was better than he has been, scoring 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting. But Smith is still vanishing for long stretches. Something is not right with him, either.
13. Tyronn Lue has to get control of his team. It may mean bringing one of the stars off the bench for a game or two. Whatever Lue is trying right now isn’t working. Not all of the guys are competing. The coach may need to be aggressive in tinkering with the lineup, and not worry about upsetting a veteran or two.
14. As Michael Jordan once said, “In order to get to the top, you’ll probably have to hurt some feelings along the way.”
15. And where is Derrick Williams? If nothing else, the Cavs’ newcomer plays with great energy and athleticism. He brings it every minute he’s on the floor. I’m not really sure what Frye (five points, three fouls) brings anymore.
16. At this point, you may even want to give James Jones a try. Don’t see how his defense could be any worse.
17. Deron Williams played 22 minutes, went 0-of-2 shooting with one assist and zero rebounds. Iman Shumpert returned after missing two games with a sore knee and was 2-of-8 from the floor. What’s going on with these guys?
18. As for Irving, well, he scored 20 points. He was also a minus-8 in his 38 minutes. So add it up, and Love and Irving combined for a minus-20. I don’t want to bore you with stats, because a simple eye test will tell you the Cavs stink right now. But what is up with their All-Stars?
19. James scored 26 and passed for eight assists. He overtook Shaquille O’Neal for seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list on an otherwise awful night for his team. It’s probably why LeBron didn’t really want to talk about the accomplishment afterward.
20. Here is what he did tell reporters of the Cavs: “Just in a bad spot right now. I’m not disappointed with the effort. Just in a bad spot. We need to figure it out.”
21. And Cavs Nation gave a hearty amen.
22. The Cavs return home for three straight, starting Friday with the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. I have no confidence the Cavs can win. They should win, but they aren’t exactly playing like a team that’s oozing cohesion and conviction.
23. Then the Cavs get Indiana on Sunday and Orlando on Tuesday. This is a good opportunity for the Cavs to get things right, to get the home crowd behind them, to win some games, and to start feeling good about themselves again. If not, man, they have even bigger problems than we already thought.