Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
1. It’s easy to think it’s just not going to happen for the Cavs. They just can no longer beat the Warriors — not in the regular season, not in The Finals. You have to wonder if the Cavs themselves feel that way, too.
2. Dating back to last season and including The Finals, the Warriors have won seven of eight in the series. The Cavs’ lone win came in Game 4 of The Finals, when they already trailed, 3-0.
3. Like it or not, Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for a 73-9 Warriors team before the start of last season. The Warriors were already magnificent, and Durant is there to stay. As I wrote in my earlier column, that is likely too much for LeBron James and these Cavs to overcome.
4. So the Cavs are going to need to find new a new piece or two between now and the Feb. 8 trade deadline. That much is pretty evident. But good luck finding it. This is a team saddled with some overinflated contracts and underperforming parts.
5. The main chip, of course, is the Brooklyn pick. The Cavs don’t want to trade it — but I bet they could be talked into it. In order to a change for the better, you have to give up something you really covet.
6. That doesn’t mean it must be the pick. But it likely will have to be someone the Cavs really like and would prefer to keep. Still, in order to get to the top, you often have to hurt some feelings (including your own) along the way.
7. Anyway, back to the here and now. The Cavs (26-17) probably played their best first half of the season in building a 64-57 lead. Then they slogged through a 2-of-17 shooting stretch to start the fourth quarter, and that was that.
8. LeBron on the Cavs not being able to shoot straight when it meant the most: “We had an opportunity. It seemed like the rim got smaller and smaller.”
9. Still, this was the Cavs’ best effort in quite some time, but that matters little. The bottom line in a bottom line industry is they have lost four straight and nine of 12. January or not, they don’t look like a team that can win a championship.
10. James, of course, was hardly to blame. He finished with 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting. Kevin Love managed 17 points on just 5-of-9 shots. (Which begs the question, why didn’t he get to shoot more?) Even J.R. Smith, who is crippling the offense with his season-long refusal to shoot 3-pointers, went 4-of-8.
11. But everyone else was basically a nightmare.
12. Isaiah Thomas is still clearly lacking lift on his jumper. He had some good looks, but some fell short. As Cavs coach Tyronn Lue indicated, Thomas (17 points, 8-of-21 shooting) is still finding his rhythm after missing almost the entire first half of the season.
13. It’s very evident the Cavs and Thomas are still getting adjusted to each other. There were times Thomas looked unsure whether he would pass or shoot, and his teammates looked equally befuddled. These things take time, especially when you’re talking about a guy who averaged 29 points a game last season (Thomas) coming to a new team (Cavs), and trying to fit in on the fly.
14. Still, as Lue also said, “We have some things we need to clean up.”
15. Love on that very topic: “That fourth quarter, our ball movement wasn’t there. We weren’t pushing the pace and we were settling for jump shots.”
16. That is very true. You don’t shoot 2-of-17 when “we just missed shots,” as Lue tried to reason. For as much grief as the Cavs’ defense warrants, their offense can equally be a mess.
17. Durant finished with 32 points, and like it or not (again), his confidence is through the roof since he latched on with the Warriors in free agency. Steph Curry added 23 and Klay Thompson scored 17. Meanwhile, Draymond Green destroyed the Cavs’ spirits time and again with 16 rebounds and nine assists.
18. It’s safe to assume the Cavs will get better. LeBron alone leaves little doubt in that area. Everyone from Lue to Warriors coach Steve Kerr to Thompson predicted the Cavs will be there playing for the title at the end. About the only person who doesn’t believe is Charles Barkley, who told the TNT audience Monday that the Cavs won’t make it out of the East.
19. That’s sort of scary, considering the last time Barkley made such a bold prediction was in 2009. He was right, as the Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference finals, robbing the world of a LeBron-Kobe Bryant Finals.
20. At any rate, the Cavs are indeed exploring trades to try to improve their odds of winning title. They have a long way to go. Right now, they’re just not a match for the Warriors. And right now, the Warriors aren’t even the only team with which they need to be concerned.
21. Mostly, the Cavs need to be concerned with themselves. If the Washington Wizards or New York Knicks were 26-17 and played this well against the Warriors, everybody would be talking about what great seasons they are having. But the Cavs’ goals are considerably loftier. They want a championship. They will, undoubtedly, need to get busy and get it together.