Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 97-95 heartbreaker of road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
1. With the game on the line, the Cavaliers’ final three tries went like this: LeBron James miss, LeBron James miss, LeBron James turnover.
2. Frankly, the Cavs needed better possessions there. They needed to move the ball a little bit. They needed to create some decent looks at the basket. They got nothing.
3. That’s certainly not intended to pick on James. He’s saved the day enough that he’s earned the right to try and win it every time. But sometimes, giving up the ball and positioning yourself for a better look is the best plan. Actually, that’s the case most of the time.
4. And James hardly lost this one. Again, you want the ball in his hands at the end. His 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in the game looked like it was going down. It too missed, but he did finish with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
5. But it’s situations like those possessions that can explain why the wheels have come off a bit lately, with the Cavs (26-16) losing three straight and looking mediocre for a good two weeks.
6. Simply put, the Cavs not only can’t defend, but they aren’t playing the right way at either end. At least, not for long enough and not when they need it most.
7. I find it hard to believe those were the plays Cavs coach Tyronn Lue came up with. I find it hard to believe that Lue would say, “LeBron, just dribble up the floor and chuck up a shot.” Then again, maybe he did.
8. Again, no one is blaming LeBron. Rather, it’s to illustrate how the whole system has broken down. The defense is terrible, and now the offense is stagnant and too reliant on one man. Nothing wrong with LeBron taking the final shots. But can’t Lue, James and the Cavs come up with something better?
9. Yeah, I know. If LeBron had made one of those shots, this would be a completely different story. We would be talking about how James delivered again. We would be again talking about his unmatched greatness. But make or miss, that doesn’t make them good shots.
10. OK, enough about that. Let’s talk about more obvious things — like the defense. (I promise, we won’t spend much time on it. After all, the Cavs sure don’t.)
11. As you know, the Cavs just completed a four-game trip. They won one, beating Orlando. How bad was the D? Bad enough that in 12 of the past 16 quarters, the Cavs allowed 30 or more points.
12. I’ve written it before and it’s worth repeating: Yes, some of the Cavs’ issues are the result of effort. But they are also lacking personnel. They are screaming, and I mean SCREAMING, for a trade.
13. The Cavs don’t have to surrender their entire present or future for a major super-duper star. (Though landing one would indeed be really nice, as Don McCormack wrote earlier.) They just need someone with lively legs who can protect the rim.
14. Someone like Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan would certainly help — but at what cost? The Clippers may ask for way more than Jordan is worth. And you don’t want to make a trade just to make one while keeping your fingers crossed that it works. You merely want to find a fit, someone who can contribute and be a factor in even a quiet, perhaps underappreciated way.
15. Maybe someone like Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel would make more sense. Or what about Atlanta Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon? Yes, I’m just throwing out names, but again, sometimes a lesser-known name will do the trick.
16. Anyway, back to reality. For the Cavs, reality is a fairly major slide and the Golden State Warriors coming to town Monday. Enjoy the weekend, everybody!
17. Kevin Love returned to his recent stretch of playing well every-other game, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Jeff Green added 13 underrated points off the bench. This also may have been the best performance of the year from promising swingman Cedi Osman (8 points).
18. It can’t be easy as a rookie in a new country on such a veteran team. But Osman has quickly adapted. The Cavs have to love his energy and hustle. If they were to trade him, you can bet it would be as part of a package for an extra-special return. They have no intentions of moving him. Then again, at the trade deadline, anything can happen.
19. OK, back to reality again. Man, this is tough. Maybe that’s why I keep getting off track. Truth is, the Cavs can’t do much right — even after leading by a whopping 34-12 count at the end of the first quarter, as they did Friday.
20. Bottom line: The Pacers (22-20) just played harder and smarter when it meant the most. And to think that’s what we had been saying about the Cavs for a long stretch in late November and early December.
21. Darren Collison led Indy with 22 points and Victor Oladipo scored 19. But it was Lance Stephenson who came off the bench to disrupt LeBron and the Cavs. Stephenson recorded 16 points and 11 boards, and baited James into a technical foul.
22. Stephenson on LeBron: “It’s hard to get into his head, but tonight was [different]. Just playing against the best player in the league, trying to win against them. There are a lot of fans coming out to support him, so I just try to get his fans mad, too.”
23. As you also likely know, both Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas were given the night off to rest. That means the Cavs were without four guards and three key ball-handlers — Wade, Thomas, Iman Shumpert (knee) and Derrick Rose (ankle).
23. Anyway, I’m certain I’ve spent too much time on this already. For even more on the state of the Cavs and this particular game, check out my other recap: New ways to lose? Yes, Cavs finding them.
24. For the Cavs, everything can change with just one win, especially if that win comes Monday. It’s hard to envision it happening with the way things are going now — but who knows? Maybe a return home will offer a quick fix. If not, the Cavs may need to try a different avenue. A trade, a lineup shakeup, etc. All we really know for sure is what’s taking place now just cannot continue.