Random dribbles on the Cleveland Cavaliers following their 114-93 stunner of a loss to the visiting Orlando Magic on Saturday.
1. The date was Nov. 5, 1985, and the Los Angeles Lakers of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers were a big deal, coming off a championship, their first-ever over the dreaded Boston Celtics. The Cavs were the sacrificial lamb on Ring Ceremony Night.
2. Final score: Cavs 129, Lakers 111, in a game that was never that close. Those Lakers fell to 2-4. The ring ceremony was great, but for the Lakers, the rest of the night was a bust.
3. Fast-forwarding to modern times … Did you know the Golden State Warriors are 1-2 after Saturday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies? (Read my recap here.)
4. Do you think anyone was really worried about those Lakers? Do you think there’s reason for panic over the Warriors?
5. The answer to both is obviously no. That’s silly. There are 79 regular-season games to go. Seventy-nine.
6. This isn’t to say today’s Cavs (2-1) are flawless, or that there aren’t a few reasons for concern. Rather, the above examples are to show that the type of loss they suffered Saturday is the type of loss that’s been happening since Dr. James Naismith hung up the dusty old peach baskets at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass.
7. LeBron James (22 points) and Kevin Love (19 points, nine rebounds) were very good. Everyone else looked dazed, confused, and ready to start a Saturday night of hitting the clubs. Basketball, it seemed, was the last thing on the Cavs’ minds.
8. Dwyane Wade scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Jose Calderon, filling in for the injured Derrick Rose, scored two. And Jae Crowder was basically non-existent — with zero points on zero field goals, and a couple of unacceptable mistakes on defense.
9. As for the bench, Iman Shumpert scored 21, and has looked good in his reserve role in the early-going. Everyone else? Well, let’s just be nice and not talk about it.
10. The Magic treated this game like Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They deserve credit for keeping the ball swinging, finding the open man, and knocking down the open (and occasionally contested) shot. Center Nikola Vucevic (23 points, 11-of-16 shooting) may be headed for an All-Star season.
11. Meanwhile, the Cavs treated the game like a run at the local YMCA where no one would be watching. Unfortunately, a lot of people who could stomach it witnessed the whole thing. Or at least a lot more than anyone should’ve been subjected.
12. While the Cavs looked mostly slow, old and out of sorts offensively, they were even worse on defense. One way to beat them, as we’ve seen time and again in the Tyronn Lue era, is to never dribble — and just pass, pass and pass some more. The Cavs have been very inconsistent when it comes to keeping up. All night, it seemed, someone on the Magic was open.
13. That’s not a shot at Lue, but he needs to figure out why this keeps happening and find a way to contain it. The Cavs need to start forcing other teams to put the ball on the floor. They’re much too content to let the opponents stand, look at the basket, and fire away.
14. And why the Cavs decided to bring in Calderon, I will never know. He was a nice player four or five years ago, but those days are well behind him. The Cavs knew about Rose’s injury history. They really should try to find someone at least more athletic than the 36-year old Calderon as a fill-in.
15. As for Wade, I’m not sure what’s going on there. He’s clearly lost several steps, and that’s OK. The Cavs need to find a way to get him in the post and get him the ball quickly. He can still operate, score and draw fouls near the basket. Right now, he is admittedly confused about his role.
16. James told reporters of the loss: “They came out and gave us one from the beginning of the game and they kept it going. We were a couple steps behind and they made us pay.”
17. Magic coach Frank Vogel: “They were far from their best and we understand that. We need to keep that in perspective.”
18. That is true, and that is something that goes back to the very beginning of this column. Every team has a night or two like this, and with an average age of 30, the Cavs are likely to struggle in back-to-backs. That’s especially the case in games without Rose, who has been magnificent in creating offense.
19. The best thing the Cavs can do now is forget about this one until the next time they see the Magic (Jan. 6 at Orlando), get some rest and come out next time and play like the team they say they are. That’s really all they can do.