Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 117-113 loss to the host Houston Rockets on Thursday.
1. As far as losses go, that was probably the best of the season. After an atrocious first quarter, the Cavs battled back and made a game of it, against a very good opponent, on the road. There are no moral victories, not when your record is 5-7. But if the Cavs play like that, they’ll start looking more like the winning team everyone expected.
2. Remember what Dwyane Wade said last week about the starters putting the Cavs in an early hole? Yeah, it happened again.
3. I’d be all for giving Jeff Green an opportunity to start in Jae Crowder’s spot. Crowder still looks a bit out of sorts, and Green could possibly give the Cavs an immediate lift with his energy and constant attacking of the rim.
4. Green was magnificent as the Cavs overcame an 18-point deficit in the first half. He scored 20 by halftime and finished with 27 on 11-of-15 shooting.
5. As for Crowder, he still seems unsure of his role. The Cavs need a “dirty-work” guy, and that was supposed to be Crowder. This is where Tyronn Lue and the coaching staff may need to step in and offer some guidance.
6. Anyway, the Cavs mostly lost this one because they were out-hustled at winning time — period. They still don’t have the sense of urgency needed to pull out close, tough games. They remain a little too laid-back, and that’s likely a direct result of their mindset of “it’s only November.”
7. They were out-rebounded by an alarming 45-26 count. Part of that has something to so with Tristan Thompson (calf) being out. Part of it is refusing to put a body on someone, boxing out and playing fundamental basketball. Instead, they just tried to out-jump guys. That’s not going to work. Not when the average age of the roster is 30.
8. In one sequence late in the fourth quarter, the Cavs gave up FIVE straight offensive rebounds. That’s just the Rockets wanting it more and playing the right way. As Joe Vardon of cleveland.com pointed out, the Rockets had possession of the ball for a consecutive 90 seconds.
9. The Cavs are also way too relaxed when it comes to moving the ball. They had opportunity after opportunity taken away by lazy, careless passes. They committed 19 turnovers, leading to 38 points for the Rockets.
10. The Rockets shot a whopping 21 more free throws, and yes, there were some awful calls. Some were on LeBron James, whisteld continuously by official Scott Foster — who always seems to have it out for LeBron. Still, the Cavs had chance after after chance in spite of it and failed to capitalize.
11. Defensively, the Cavs were a little better, at least in stretches. I know, it sounds strange after a night in which they gave up 117 points. But aside from several major lapses in the first quarter, they were at least engaged.
12. Basically, the Cavs still believe they’re favorites to come out of the East. Really, they do. But man oh man, they have some things that need cleaned up. “We’re definitely getting there, we’re definitely getting better,” Wade told reporters. “We had an opportunity.”
13. Time to give Iman Shumpert some credit. He has had a nice stretch recently, playing hard and making opponents work. He spent most of the night trying to defend James Harden, often an impossible task. And it’s true Harden finished with 35 points, but he looked gassed at the end. Shumpert was a big reason why.
14. James had another big night with 33 points and seven assists — but he committed NINE turnovers. A few came after he left his feet and desperately tried to find a teammate while in midair. He ends up throwing those away every time.
15. Love finished with 17 points and J.R. Smith scored 13. Smith wasn’t quite as aggressive as the other night in the win over Milwaukee, but he did take 11 shots. That’s not awful. But the Cavs would prefer to see him in the 13-to-16 range most nights.
16. The Rockets (9-3) have won four straight. Harden also passed for 13 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds. He was awesome, per usual. Eric Gordon scored 20 and Clint Capela added 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. What a find Capela has been.
17. Finally, the Cavs are in Dallas against a Mavericks team that’s struggled mightily. It’s a great opportunity to go in, take care of business quickly and get a win.