CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head-scratcher of a 104-103 victory over the visiting Orlando Magic on Thursday.
1. It’s hard to remember that the Cavs actually tied a franchise record with 13 consecutive wins earlier this season. Nowadays, even the victories feel like defeats.
2. All we really know about the Cavs today is they no longer play hard or together for entire games. On Thursday, they build a 23-point lead, then got bored. Sadly, sometimes, it is their very best player who is guilty as charged.
3. But at least LeBron James admitted he had an off night, calling his performance “garbage” on Twitter after the game. He finished with 16 points, but almost cost the Cavs a win with six turnovers (including a lousy pass out of a double team near the end) and a miserable 2-of-8 shooting on free throws.
4. As it stands, the Cavs (27-17) snapped a four-game losing streak. Or more accurately, the Magic snapped it for them by missing a layup that likely would’ve sealed it with about two seconds to go. The ball, released from the hand of Magic guard Elfrid Payton, simply rolled off the rim.
5. Keep in mind, we’re talking about the Magic here. They started the season 8-4, including a win over the Cavs in Cleveland. Since then, they’ve gone a miserable 5-28.
6. Highlights for the Cavs: Isaiah Thomas scored a season-high 21 points, and Derrick Rose returned to score nine on 4-of-8 shooting. (On the downside, Rose continued his trend of low-assist games, passing for just one in 13 minutes.)
7. But enough about the game. You can read my full recap/analysis right here if you’re actually interested.
8. Despite an ugly evening that included a 23-point lead in the first half, followed by a horrendous final 24 minutes, the Cavs actually moved a spot closer to first place in the Eastern Conference. That’s because the Kyrie Irving-less Boston Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Cavs are now six games back.
9. Think about that. As miserable as the Cavs (27-17) have been lately, they are still within striking distance of first in the East. Things have to get better. Don’t they?
10. It’s hard to see that possibility today — especially when Cavs coach Ty Lue offers answers such as “I can’t remember” or “I don’t know” when asked about his feelings about what’s going on.
11. Granted, Lue is giving stale answers by design, simply because he doesn’t want to give away too much information or share too much about what’s going on inside the locker room. But how do you think the fans feel when they hear the coach respond this way? Lue needs to remember he’s not sharing his knowledge with reporters as much as he is with the people who care deeply about the team.
12. Anyway, what Lue says or doesn’t say to the media hardly matters in the big picture. How the Cavs go about turning it around on the court is what matters most. Right now, they seem far from figuring that out. “Right now, we’re in Strugglesville,” James said in uttering the most accurate line of the night.
13. While the Cavs’ issues are more than just effort, this one went a long way in showing the difference between what the Cavs look like when they’re dialed in … and when they’re something else entirely.
14. LeBron on the disparity between the first- and second-half: “Just being in a little funk. Just being out of sorts as far as trying to put two complete halves together. We’re trying to find that.”
15. As I wrote the other day, the Cavs are also trying to find some help via the trade market. For more on that, check out my column from Thursday.
16. In the meantime, there is some truth to the theory that the Cavs have so many new pieces moving in and out of the lineup (Thomas and Rose are the most recent examples) that they are having a hard time finding their footing and getting into a real rhythm.
17. But it’s getting way late in the game for excuses. At some point, the Cavs just need to put it all together and show that they are still capable of getting out of the East and making a real run at a championship. Today, even after wins, it’s getting difficult to believe they are.