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Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ awful 106-100 loss to the visiting Rockets on Tuesday.
1. This one stings. LeBron James or not, you just can’t lose games where you lead by 20 points. Especially when those games are at home. Especially when it’s this late in the season. Especially when this team is supposed to be more than just LeBron.
2. The Cavs lost their energy. They went away from what worked. In the first half, they played a mostly inside-out brand of basketball. At the very least, they tried to attack the rim. In the second half, they launched jumper after jumper after thankless jumper — again.
3. The Cavs have shot horribly in the fourth quarter for a week. Yet they refuse to pass the ball to Kevin Love near the basket. In fact, against the Rockets, they refused to get the ball to Love, period — as he had just one field-goal attempt the final 12 minutes.
4. This is all a broken record for a team that’s 52-22 and is still in first place in the East. The Cavs don’t need to be better than that, record-wise. But they do need to clean up the issues that keep playing over and over again.
5. Quick summary: The Cavs say they know what they’re doing wrong, and continue to do it anyway.
6. One clear concern is the Cavs are not being nearly physical enough. They’re not trying to punish teams in the paint — on either end. Instead, they’re passing the ball around the perimeter and waiting for open jumpers that rarely come. On Tuesday, they shot a whopping 40 3-pointers. That’s not a winning formula.
7. As Love told reporters, the Cavs just quit being aggressive in the second half. “That’s ultimately what did it,” he said.
8. Kyrie Irving (31 points, eight assists) knocked down a big three with 1:29 left that cut the Rockets’ lead to one. But overall, Irving and Love (13 points, 11 rebounds) are still struggling to knock down dagger perimeter shots. They both missed open jumpers with about 6:00 left and the Cavs desperately needing a score.
9. Aside from James and older players such as Richard Jefferson, James Jones, Mo Williams and Channing Frye, the Cavs too often resemble a young team that often buckles in tense situations. That’s not an excuse. It’s just proving to be reality.
10. And who can explain why coach Ty Lue didn’t play Jones (10 points) or Williams (six points on 2-of-2 shooting) in the second half? Both performed like savvy veterans and gave the Cavs a real lift in the first.
11. This one looked a lot like the last Cavs’ home game without LeBron. The Cavs blew a 20-point lead (to the Mavericks) then, too — but managed to escape with a one-point win.
12. Tristan Thompson had a nice overall night with 16 points and 10 boards. He’s one guy who can never be accused of failing to give maximum effort. Thompson also broke Jim Chones’ consecutive games record with the Cavs — as Thompson played in his 362nd straight.
13. Other than that, the night was a disappointment. The Cavs contained James Harden and the Rockets for the majority of three quarters, then slowly but surely let it slip away. The worst thing about it was the Cavs were so impressive in the first half — only to let it go to waste against an opponent that, frankly, hasn’t displayed much resolve this season.
14. Finally, what on earth has happened to Frye? He’s 4-of-22 shooting over the past four games. That includes 1-of-17 on 3-pointers. J.R. Smith (1-of-6) and Iman Shumpert (4-of-14) didn’t help matters Tuesday. Shumpert, too, has been out of sorts all year.
15. The Cavs need someone, anyone, to knock down a perimeter shot. Otherwise, for the love of Dr. James Naismith, stop firing up 40 threes.