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Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 110-103 loss to the visiting Washington Wizards on Thursday.
1. Well, it was bound to happen. The new-look Cavaliers finally had an off night, a night where they couldn’t shoot straight, a night where most everything that could go wrong … did.
2. It’s just too bad it had to happen in front of the home crowd. But for most of the night, the four new guys looked disjointed, and almost scared of the expectations.
3. That’s not to say George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson were actually intimidated. Aside from maybe Nance, though, they weren’t the same players who showed up in big road wins over the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder before the All-Star break.
4. Basically, for the first time since the trade, the Cavs were out of sorts. The Wizards, on the other hand, could do little wrong, as All-Star point guard John Wall (injured knee) watched from the sidelines and smiled.
5. Some of it had to do with the fact Wall’s replacement, Tomas Satoransky, did his best Jerry West impersonation on his way to 17 points and eight assists. Unlike the Cavs, Satoransky and the Wizards were fluid, confident and playing loose.
6. For the Cavs, it was a whole lot of LeBron James (32 points on 13-of-18 shooting) and not much of anyone else. If anything, this game showed how badly the Cavs still need Kevin Love, because most everyone else laid an egg. It was too much LeBron and not enough of the other guys.
7. Hill finished 2-of-10 shooting, and Hood and Clarkson each went 3-of-7. That’s not even the worst of it — as overall, the Cavs were a miserable 8-of-35 on 3-pointers.
8. On one occasion, Hood had a wide-open 3 in the corner. He had time to eye the basket, set his feet, fire away and follow through. But the ball hit the side of the backboard, and that shot pretty much defined the entire evening.
9. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue spoke the cold, hard truth when he said, “We had some good looks and good shots. They just didn’t fall.”
10. It was hard to envision a night like this when the Cavs were clobbering the Celtics and rolling the Thunder. But then came more than a week off, followed by one measly practice. Clearly, these Cavs can’t win on energy and effort alone.
11. But hey, that right there is the good news. Even in defeat, the Cavs (34-23) still did many of the little things well. But in basketball, when you shoot 35 threes and only make eight, you won’t even beat the Harlem Wizards.
12. LeBron to reporters on the loss: “Like I told you guys, it’s still a work in progress with us. It’s not going to be overnight, no matter the excitement before the break. We got a lot of things to work on, implement what we need to do. Tonight, we still played our game, we just didn’t make a lot of shots.”
13. James passed for eight assists. J.R. Smith also had a nice game, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Tristan Thompson added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.
14. So the starters who were starters prior to the trade deadline did their part. Without a doubt, all three still look better than they did earlier this season, before general manager Koby Altman shipped out six of their teammates.
15. Another thing the newer Cavs learned on this night? When you have LeBron James on your team, you are going to get everyone else’s best shot. LeBron’s Cavs are everyone else’s championship. The Wizards (34-24) talked smack, clapped obnoxiously and played with great passion.
16. Bradley Beal led Washington with 18 points, including a reverse layup that basically sealed it with 28 seconds to go. Kelly Oubre Jr., who spent some time training with LeBron in the offseason, scored 17 off the bench. Otto Porter Jr. had 15 and pulled down eight rebounds.
17. In the end, the Cavs’ four-game winning streak and enjoyable honeymoon ride were history. But no need to panic, right? Right, said James.
18. LeBron on the big picture: “I think we played well tonight, even though we lost. I hate losing, obviously, but I (like) the way we played, the way we shared the ball. Defensively, we were flying around as well. They just played better than us. I like the direction we’re headed.”
20. The great news for the Cavs is there’s always another game. In fact, they boarded a flight for Memphis immediately after the loss. They get the Grizzlies on Friday night. So the Cavs have a chance to put this behind them quickly, and with a few more made buckets, that is exactly what they will do. Everything else, quite honestly, still looks A-OK.