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This was bound to happen. When faced with embarrassment, groups or in this case, a basketball team, tends to point fingers as opposed to looking in the mirror.
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue did the former Thursday night in Toronto after his squad was humiliated for the second-straight game, 133-99, by the Raptors.
Some (blush) thought Cleveland had hit rock bottom while being drubbed by the Minnesota Timbervoles on Monday night in Minneapolis, 127-99.
Turns out, though, that was just a tumble compared to what went down (with authority!) Thursday night.
This was a cratering, and Lue pointed fingers in his postgame interview with reporters, though he stopped short of naming names.
“I never really get concerned,” Lue said. “We’ve got to be better. We know that. But until we play better defensively, I think offensively, sharing the basketball, everyone on the same page, and if guys have agendas, we’ve got to get rid of our agendas and play the right way.”
Uh oh, anytime “agendas” comes up when a collective is being discussed it’s not a good thing.
The Cavaliers (26-15) have become accustomed to midseason swoons, then getting off the canvas to turn it around come playoff time and have made three consecutive trips to The Finals.
However, there’s this nugget, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau — no team in NBA history has gone on to win the championship after losing consecutive games by 25 points or more during the regular season.
In other words, pride still goeth before a fall, too.
But, let’s get back on point, something the Cavaliers haven’t done much of, though their swinging-gate impersonation on _efense (no D, after all) has given them up while being boat-raced — Cleveland has allowed 125 or more points in three consecutive games.
(Quick sidebar — there’s an iconic song by the great Euclid Beach Band, entitled, “No Surf in Cleveland.” Perhaps they can reboot it under the title, “There’s No D in Clevelan_”)
But, I digress. Back to the topic at hand — agendas.
Not knowing to whom Lue was referring, his players had a mixed bag of opinions in their respective post mortems of their latest “The Walking Dead” nontest, though J.R. Smith’s nightly disappearing act (you scored as many points as he did — zero — and you didn’t play 27 meh minutes, though he did and his contribution — 1 rebound and 1 assist, shooting 0-for-5, including zip-for-2 from 3) would qualify more for starring in a remake of “The Invisible Man.” Then again, perhaps a “Dirty Dozen” remake is in order, as Smith has missed his last 12 shots.
When informed of Lue’s statement about agendas, LeBron James — who led Cleveland with 26 points but had only one assist, only the 10th time in his 15-year career he’s had less than two assists in a game — responded with, “I would hope not.”
“I don’t have one. I just want to win,” he said. “I just like playing ball the right way, getting guys involved and winning the game also. I don’t (have an agenda).”
Isaiah Thomas — who is mired in a 5-for-26 skid from the floor as he’s played four games since coming back from a torn labrum in his right hip — on the other hand, said Lue has a point.
“The biggest thing that I see we’re not doing, we’re not playing for each other right now, offensively and defensively,” Thomas said. “Defensively, everybody’s on an island playing defense by themselves. Offensively, it’s a lot of one-on-one, no ball movement.
“It’s things we can fix, that’s the good thing about it, we just have to do it and we have to do it now. You can lose games, but you can’t get blown out. With how good we really are, we can’t allow these types of games to happen.”
Kevin Love, however, doesn’t see it Lue’s way.
“We’ve got a lot of vets on this team,” he said. “If there are agendas, I don’t see it. But I’m sure whoever he’s speaking of or speaking to with that, he’ll address it, as we usually do.”
Dwyane Wade said the frustration, which leads to the pointing of fingers, stems from struggles on the floor.
“I just live by the code that if you’re winning, it’s good and it feels good. It’s ebb and flow,” he said. “Never get too high, never get too low.
“You lose by 1 point, you lose by 25 points, it’s a loss. You win by 25, you win by 1, it’s a win.”
The more Wade spoke, the more it becomes more and more obvious just how remarkable his influence, on the floor and, in this case, the locker room, really is.
“Sometimes you get in a slump, guys start worrying about me, me, me,” he said. “You have to play for each other on both ends of the floor.
“If you’re into yourself on the offensive end, if you’re struggling, then you’re not doing what you need to do defensively and vice versa.”
The voice of experience, through good times and bad, Wade dug even deeper, revealing how these types of tumult can be conquered.
“From my experience as a veteran player, my message is we’ve got to all play for each other a little more,” he said. “And we have to get out of our individual whatever we’re going through.
“It’s a lot of different stuff going on, especially when you’re missing shots, especially when the other team is scoring you start getting into yourself. And that’s not going to do anything but make it worse.”
As for Lue’s statement about agendas?
“I don’t know what he’s saying,” Wade said. “But that’s my opinion.”
Lue has tried different avenues in attempting to get his squad — the oldest, most experienced (not to mention, with the second-highest payroll) team in the NBA — back on track.
The Cavaliers had their well-publicized Napa sojourn on an extra day off in between losses at Sacramento and Utah on a recent three-game road trip, which resulted in three amorphous defeats.
They flew from Minnesota after that abysmal performance Monday night straight to Toronto, a well-known favorite city of players across the league, where they had an extra day to spend.
Lue then sat his team down Wednesday and made it watch the first quarter of the Minnesota Mauling, pointing out all of the defensive miscues by his players.
The Cavaliers reacted by saying how productive the film session was and how corrections could — and would — be made.
Then, they went out and spit the bit against a team missing its starting All-Star point guard in Kyle Lowry and its starting power forward in Serge Ibaka… and playing its third game in four nights.
Perhaps Lue ought to ponder reconsidering his “I never really get concerned” statement, as everything he’s touched lately seemingly has turned to stone, a la Medusa.
Scratch that. There’s no “perhaps” necessary.
The time is now. Actually, it’s well past time.
If Lue isn’t concerned, he’s turning a blind eye to the desultory performances we’ve all witnessed (naw, won’t go there) by the group of which he’s in charge.
Anyone have a spare mirror?