Dribbles: Stumbling, bumbling Cavs still at loss

LeBron James and the Cavaliers failed to capitalize on their impressive start vs. the Pacers.

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.

3 Comments on "Dribbles: Stumbling, bumbling Cavs still at loss"

  1. The downside of having LeBron on the team is having guys like Lance Stephenson “get up” to play extra hard against the best player in the world. That’s how Minnesota and Toronto played against the Cavs, like it was total war. Meanwhile, the Cavs are hitting their mid-season form: no defense, little effort. I remember this very well from last year: they played very poorly. Then the playoffs came, they escaped Indiana in a hard fought first round, making it to the Finally pretty easily after that, where they were totally exposed by the Dubs.

    This year looks the same, with Lue doing his “hands off the steering wheel” routine. We have undersized Isaiah falling to earth after a 2 game blast off and suddenly the Cavs look nothing like the team that rolled for 13 straight wins.

    I am not going to panic like I did earlier in the season. Question is, can Koby fire Lue and pull off some great moves to give this team a shot? I’m guessing they stick with Lue, even though the writing is on the wall that Lue is done after June if the Cavs get destroyed in the Finals again. Right now they have no chance.

  2. Where’s Channing Frye. We are 16-1 when he plays 10 min or more

  3. When you’re facing playoff tier teams, you can NOT afford to play around with them. Letting them back into games is not an option, even on back to backs which “Lue-ser” offered as an excuse(it wasn’t-they mostly played good enough to win it & actually could have this time) Sam’s right, -NO PLAY CALLING! Who’s fault is that? “LUE-SER”‘s.

    Wolverine, You too are correct, in that they do NOT look anything like the team that rolled for the 13 straight wins, & a BIG part of the why is LUE & his not letting the bench squad operate as they did intact earlier ! INTACT, with exactly what Bobby Bo said, WHERE IS CHANNING FRYE! The way we had it back when TT was out, second team was bringing it with the three ball & GREAT PASSING and Drives to the basket because Fyre was drawing out the defense & spreading the floor. Doesn’t happen with Tristan in even if he does grab a rebound now & then, & even get a 2 pt basket or MAYBE 1 free throw out of 2. These teams come back on you with 3-ball offense & our lazy defense. Lue is now calling time outs a bit sooner but still too late when momentum swings, & apparently still doesn’t get them and keep them in right frame of mind after the time out. Reverting to the non-passing, non-cutting, non-running a set play, but “standing around WATCHING Lebron” dribble & long 3 shot rim out. He can carry the team only so far by himself, they have to start MAKING the shots OR the team needs some serious trading including a coach that loves T-top ??? ?? ?? ??
    Bobby-Bo – Nice Stat on Channing, (knew he was a difference maker but WOW) Just hope it isn’t too later for the bench’s Chemistry to kick back in IF FRYE GET’S BACK IN. TOO MUCH TT.

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