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CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 133-111 embarrassment of a home-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
1. Well, the Cavs may need a little work on that perimeter defense. And that transition defense. And that defense near the basket. Other than all that, they’re really locking down their opponents.
2. Somehow, the Cavs went on 20-2 run in this game … raced to a 15-point lead … and lost by 22. This against a team that’s pretty much planning on being the worst in the league.
3. For those of you looking for a ray of hope, keep in mind the Cavs lost their first home matchup vs. the lowly Hawks last season, too, and still went to the Finals.
4. Also, the 1984-85 Cavs started 2-19, and still made the playoffs.
5. Sorry, but that’s all I got.
6. Anyway, back to the here and now. When you lose to the Hawks by 22 at home and fall to 0-3, it’s hard to come up with solid answers. That may be why coach Tyronn Lue’s most interesting responses in the postgame press conference were “no” and “I don’t know.”
7. Cavs center Tristan Thompson was considerably more direct. “All they were doing was swinging the ball, and just carving us up one-on-one,” he said. “We’re not asking everyone to be lockdown defenders or Bruce Bowen, but just take the personal challenge. If your guy beats you, you should know that you’re going to have help on the backside.”
8. Thompson wasn’t finished. “It was embarrassing, especially at home, especially with the way we competed in the first two games,” he said. “With this team, every game counts. This was a bad loss. Today we took two steps back. No disrespect to the Hawks, but their mentality this season is for their young guys to get reps. It’s not about the wins and losses for them, it’s about the journey to get back to where they want to.”
9. More Thompson: “We gotta figure it out. Whoever is in there has got to be ready to play. If you don’t know what to do, ask questions. But don’t go out there and say, ‘I know, I know,’ and then come out and get your ass whooped.”
10. Defensive is clearly the biggest issue, and man, it is big. But it would also help if Kevin Love (16 points) could start making shots again. For the second straight game, he finished 6-of-19 from the field. This is concerning because Love struggled with his shooting near the end of last season as well. On the bright side, Love is continuing to rebound at a remarkable rate, finishing with 17 one game after corralling 19. But that alone isn’t making much of a difference.
11. Love on the night: “I was too perimeter-oriented. I felt like I was just jacking them up from the outside. That’s on me, too. We didn’t expect to be 0-3. We expect to play better. I don’t know if alarming is the right word, but it sure sounds about right for right now.”
12. The Cavs shot 52 percent in the first quarter and finished 47 percent for the game. Those are completely acceptable numbers — which just goes to show you how atrocious things were defensively.
13. Cavs big man Larry Nance Jr. (nine points, four rebounds, four assists) made his season debut and didn’t like what he saw in any facet. “We got a little bit selfish at times, both offensively and defensively,” Nance said. “We weren’t always helping on defense, and offensively, we took some questionable shots.”
14. Meanwhile, the Hawks went from being a mess early to a team that looked like the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the second half. Dynamic rookie point guard Trae Young erupted for 35 points, 11 assists and 6-of-14 shooting on 3-pointers. He easily outplayed Cavs rookie nemesis Collin Sexton (four points, two assists, 2-of-11 shooting).
15. Lue on Sexton: “He took it personal. A lot of times he was trying to fight over screens to guard Trae, and that’s not what we want.”
16. Lue then managed to smile about Sexton. “I think his competitive nature got the best of him tonight,” Lue said. “But it’s only the third game.”
17. Lue makes a valid point. You sure wouldn’t think it could get worse from here. But it’s also too early to tell if the fact the Cavs still have 79 games left is good news or bad news.
18. Jordan Clarkson was again a pistol off the bench. He finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 on threes.
19. George Hill added 16 points, Rodney Hood had 13, Cedi Osman scored 12 and Thompson went for 11 points and nine boards. But at the other end, man, the Cavs looked completely helpless.
16. The Hawks also received 23 points from Kent Bazemore and 16 points and 11 rebounds from big center Alex Len. Remember him? The Phoenix Suns couldn’t wait to to cut him loose. And the Cavs basically turned him into the second coming of a healthy Bill Walton.
17. Sexton on the state of things: “We just gotta play defense. We gotta communicate. We allowed them to do whatever they wanted.”
18. That about sums it up. Right now, the Cavs are mad and they’re bad. All that’s left now is to see what they intend to do about it.