Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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It’s been more than a decade since LeBron James scored only 10 points in an NBA game, which should speak volumes toward explaining — if it can be explained — what transpired Monday night at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Timberwolves 127, Cavaliers 99.
What more needs to be said, really?
But, hey, we’ll give it a shot, anyway.
James, who last scored 10 points in a game back in 2007, led the Cleveland starters in points scored… with 10.
He also logged the worst plus-minus total in his 15-year career… minus-39, and he did so in his 1,101st game as an NBA player.
“I don’t care about no damn plus-minus,” James said. “I’ve won a game and had a bad plus-minus before, so what does that matter. I don’t give a damn about no damn plus-minus.”
But, hey, at least he had plenty of time to rest his legs… he played only 27 minutes.
“They put a good one on us,” James said, his head down and not making eye contact with reporters, something he always does, regardless of the outcome.
That’s how bad this one was — James couldn’t even look reporters in the eye.
Perhaps it’s time he and his teammates should look in the mirror, though.
“(We) got it to 14 at the end of the first (quarter), but we didn’t get any closer than that,” James, who managed to extend his streak of scoring in doubles figures to 831 games in the loss, said.
The lowlights were aplenty. For those who were fortunate enough not to watch, and for the sake of attempting to keep your disgust meter below “throw-the-water bottle-at-your-screen” mark, short and not-so-sweet:
* It the 28-point loss was the Cavaliers’ worst of the season. However, it easily could’ve been worse. Cleveland was down by as many as 41 points in the third quarter after trailing by 27 at halftime.
* The Timberwolves got whatever they wanted against the porous Cleveland defense, waltzing to the rim like they were going for a stroll in the park, scoring 60 — yes, 6-0 — points in the paint.
* Three members of Cleveland’s starting lineup — Isaiah Thomas (0-for-7), Kevin Love (0-for-6) and J.R. Smith (0-for-5) — registered a big, fat goose egg from the floor in the first half, putting up more bricks than seen at your neighborhood construction sight. The less-than-terrific trio combined to miss all 18 bricks, er… shots, it heaved in the first two quarters.
* “Led” by those three guys, the Cleveland starters at least made one its strengths this season — its bench — look good. The non-starters outscored the starters, 71-28.
* The Cavaliers were crushed on the boards, 56-37.
* The shot Thomas took at Andrew Wiggins that earned him a Flagrant-2 foul and ejection in the third quarter was the only sign of fight by the Cavaliers all game long. Thomas, to his credit, immediately apologized to Wiggins while he was on his back on the floor after the clothesline and later in his postgame comments, but it was not a good look.
Get the picture? OK, ’nuff of that.
Let’s allow the principles to attempt to explain what morphed from a highly anticipated matchup into a “nontest,” from the opening tip.
“Tonight, I don’t know what tonight was,” Love said. “It was just ugly. We were getting good shots up, I think, all the way around. We got really good shots to start the game. They just didn’t fall and that kind of held true throughout the entire game, and it seemed like they hit everything.
“So it’s easy to say it’s just one of those nights, but in a lot of cases, there’s a lot of things that we can do better.”
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue didn’t put too much stock in the embarrassing loss to the Timberwolves, who have held their last six opponents to less than 100 points and have won seven of their last 10 games.
“It happens,” he said. “It happens three or four times a year to a lot of teams. We’re not normally a team that gets beat like that.”
The numbers say otherwise, though. Half of the Cavaliers’ 14 losses this season have come by 10 points or more. Conversely, Cleveland has won by double digits only seven times in its 26 victories this season.
Changes are coming, or at least being considered, right?
Not according to Lue, who said after the game he plans no lineup changes for the fourth stop on Cleveland’s current five-game road trip (the Cavaliers are 1-2, so far), Thursday night at against surging Toronto Raptors (28-10), who have won five straight games and are now three games ahead of the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings in the chase for second place, trailing only Boston (33-10).
“We haven’t been able to stop (opponents) as of late,” he said. “Defense (issues are) just one-on-one off the dribble, pick-and-roll has been our Achilles’ heel. And transition.
“They got all three tonight.”
The Cavaliers, coming off a 13-game winning streak and a stretch where it had won 18 of 19 games, has sagged to 3-9 in its last dozen games. When asked if there’s a common denominator in the tough stretch, James was brief in his response.
“Yeah, we’re just not playing well right now,” he said. “That’s it.”
Fellow All-Star Love said the team will have to rely on its experience in these types of situations. Cleveland has the oldest roster in the league.
“We’re a veteran team and we know what we’re capable of, and it can’t be so easy for us to get in those lulls and not try to dig ourselves out of them,” Love said. “So we got to be better.”
Almost always confident, steadfast, even defiant by nature, James rationalized the Cavaliers’ tough times after they held off the Orlando Magic for a 131-127 road win Saturday night.
“We know who we are now, what we want to do,” he said that night. “Sometimes, even when you know, you still take some bumps along that road, that’s OK.”
This wasn’t a bump.
This was cratering.
James was asked after the wipeout loss Monday night if he still feels that way.
“Uh, just want to get better,” James said, his head remaining down.
When asked whether Cleveland’s offense or defense was the bigger offender against the Timberwolves, he hit the repeat button.
“Uh, we just want to get better,” James said.
Make that need to get better.