Dribbles: Another plunge puts Cavs season in jeopardy

Try as he might, not even LeBron James could save the Cavaliers in Game 3 vs. the Pacers.

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ demoralizing 92-90 road loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of their first-round series Friday.

1. How does a team built a 17-point lead at halftime, use mostly the same players in the second half, then get outscored by 19?

2. Honestly. Someone please explain. I really don’t understand.

3. I’ve been covering this game a long time, in love with it even longer. But this is something I’ve never been able to figure out. Mostly, I can’t figure out why it almost seems to keep happening this season’s Cavs.

4. Two main people return from the Cavs of last year, and they are the two most important people — LeBron James, and Tyronn Lue. That’s the star player and the coach. They are the common denominators. And the same type of thing happened too often last year.

5. I would have a hard time blaming James. He’s not perfect, but he is the best basketball player in the world. That leaves Lue.

6. Granted, it’s pretty evident the Cavs really miss Kyrie Irving. Aside from James, they have no dynamic players. They have LeBron and … Kevin Love?

7. But I wouldn’t call Love “dynamic.” He’s more like a really good big man. For whatever reason, he has repeatedly failed to come through for the Cavs in a major way when it means the most.

8. Love usually compiles good numbers. He finished with 19 points (second on the team to LeBron’s 28) and six rebounds in Game 3. But Love was MIA in a big way in the second half. He took just TWO shots in the final 24 minutes. The second of those attempts didn’t take place until he fired up a desperation 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left. He made it.

9. Why can’t the Cavs keep Love involved? Or is it Love who allows himself to be take out of it with a lack of aggressiveness?

10. I honestly don’t know. I just know Love and the Cavs are always good — just never as good as they could be.

11. As for Lue, it’s safe to say he’s not great at overcoming situations when his team hits a snag. When things start to go bad, he’ll call a timeout, but nothing ever really gets better.

12. Pacers coach Nate McMillan is the opposite of that. His team has faced huge deficits twice in this series — and staged furious rallies both times. Interestingly, both of those rallies came after halftime.

13. That leads me to believe McMillan and his staff saw what was wrong in the first half and made the necessary adjustments in the locker room at halftime. Lue did not.

14. Also, McMillan has one of the all-time great assistant coaches in Dan Burke. Burke is known as a basketball genius when it comes to defense. The players love him and listen. Same for McMillan.

15. The Cavs have some fine assistants, too. Associate head coach Larry Drew is among them. The Cavs looked like a well-oiled machine when Drew filled in for Lue for nine games after the All-Star break. They have sort of gone down the tubes with Lue back in charge.

16. That’s not me ripping Lue. That’s me stating a fact.

17. When a reporter asked Lue what went wrong in the second half, he just stammered. “Um,” he said, with a long pause. “Could you ask the question again?”

18. It makes you think Lue doesn’t know the answer. That’s not good for the Cavs, who trail this series 2-1 with another game at Indiana on Sunday. It makes you think things may not get better.

19. Some of the Cavs’ issues this season have been exclusive to Lue. We can say that with a great deal of certainty after watching Drew coach the team. We can also say that with a great deal of certainty after watching general manager Koby Altman and team owner Dan Gilbert turn over the roster in February. The issues with Lue on the sidelines remain the same.

20. But Lue is the coach, and that is the way it will stay for the rest of the season. For the sake of the franchise, here’s to hoping he gets it figured out.

21. As for the players, it’s hard to know where to go from here. Love was invisible in the second half. Same goes for George Hill, who was barely used after scoring all of his 13 points in the first half. Jose Calderon and Tristan Thompson didn’t play.

22. Thompson hasn’t played in either of the last two games and only got in for garbage time at the end of Game 1. He had an awful regular season, but it may not be a bad idea to give him another chance — even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes.

23. Calderon had a very nice regular season. He unselfishly keeps the ball moving and makes open shots. The Cavs could have used him in the third quarter when the offense was left for dead.

24. I understand that playoff rotations are typically shortened, and Lue did use nine guys. But desperate times sometimes call for in-game adjustments and utilizing your deep bench.

25. Kyle Korver (zero points) didn’t have it. Jordan Clarkson (two points) didn’t have it. This isn’t the time of year to stick with guys who aren’t offering anything. As LeBron said afterward, “It’s the postseason. I think every game is a must-win.”

26. So you need to coach that way. And the players need to approach it that way.

27. James also finished with 12 rebounds and eight assists. He is hard to blame, because he received no help in that second half. But he was a non-factor in the third quarter and didn’t really show up big again until making a trio of threes late in the game.

28. Meanwhile, Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic went off for 30, many coming on 7-of-9 shooting on 3-pointers. The rest of the Pacers went 1-of-17 on threes. So the Pacers couldn’t shoot straight, and still won.

29. The Cavs did an excellent job on Victor Oladipo … and still lost. Oladipo was limited to five points in the first half, before finishing with 18.

30. We could keep going on and on here, but what’s the point? The bottom line on this series is the Cavs only need to win one in Indiana to regain homecourt advantage. They could get it Sunday night and suddenly, all of this will mean a lot less. The sad thing for the Cavs, though, is they already had a playoff road win, and choked it away.

31. Finally, a Twitter poll by a Cleveland reporter asked followers: “Will you be mad if LeBron leaves?” Of the first 1,000 to respond, 74 percent said no. But there will be time enough to talk about all that. What matters now to the Cavs is Sunday night. Win, and everyone starts believing again. Lose, and expect to see a lot more Twitter polls.

9 Comments on "Dribbles: Another plunge puts Cavs season in jeopardy"

  1. Scoring 12 points in the third quarter, with korver playing 20 minutes and not scoring missing, several key shots and allowing a four point play to bogdonavich along with clarkson, usually a good scoring reserve was ineffective. Korver should not start the game and as soon as the quick release shot goes astray remove him from the lineup in favor of green, hood, thomppson.There is too much emphasis on three point shooting i want to see a larger lineup with emphasis of controling the low post area and playing a more attacking assault of the basket by adding thompson, green, nance to the lineups for that purpose. De emphasize the three point shot as it is too inconsistent and the games have small margin for error. A higher percentage shot is needed now.
    Start the old standby lineup: james, love,thompson,smith, hill: quick to the bench with green, nance, hood clarkson and korver on a short leash. This sunday game must get played with intensity, intelligence, relentless,and winning at all cost. The first half of the friday game saw some great team defense yet the offensive slugishness in the second half was unexceptable and there should have been somne set plays. the pacers pressured the ball and did force some turn overs. Bogdonavich may never have as good of a game in his career.

  2. love took only 2 second half shots because LeBron kept pointing for everyone to clear out of the lane but LeBron waited too long to make his move. hard for love to be effective getting the ball as clock expires. wasn’t a problem in first half as ball was moving,there was pace, and they weren’t concerned about running down shot clock.played second half not to lose instead of playing to win.happens too often.lue must go.

  3. You are SO on target Sam. What I don’t get is WHY? Why people can see exactly the same as you & I, and continual video to prove it, and the SAME stuff keeps happening. Over & over & over. Yes Lue calls time out & it DOES NOT IMPROVE, but usually he waits 2 or 3 possessions too late to call the timeout. Last night, to his credit which happens little, he DID call it earlier, which gave me hope in the 3rd QTR, but again, results– NOTHING changed. CAVS went to standing around again just watching, NOT moving, and Pacers continued to chip away at it as CAVS continued to toss up 3s that did NOT go in. No attacking the basket, the way the first half went. Momentum changed, Pacers confidence changed, and Cavs did NOT CHANGE. YES Korver of 0-3 on 3’s just didn’t look in shooting rhythm at all. Smith, DID do well on DEFENSE, BUT his offense was really stinky, 2-8 on his 3’s & 3-11 overall for 8 pts. Look at who was in after Hill & Love disappeared, Besides Lebron who occupied the ball a lot(& had some 6 turnovers {some expected}), Rodney HOOD, dribbler, occupies ball quite a bit, sometimes does decent, WAS 4-8, But 0-3 on those 3pt chuckers. Then Clarkson(WHY) supreme ball occupier, clock dribbler, dribbles into a crowd & will NOT pass until there’s no choice!, usually in mid air to an unsuspecting teammate or the unsuspecting OPPONENT. Where’s the coaching this guy, 0-1 on the 3 ball too. 1 of 4 overall for a mere 2 pts in 20 minutes of (play)? WHERE WAS CALDERON,,,??? WHERE WAS CEDI,,,,???
    Coaching or lack of it is where this was blown. How can the Cavs bench STILL outscore the Pacers bench & still LOSE, answer Coach LUE-ser. The players have to move. They ARE OLDER now, & SOME youth is needed AND SOME SHOOTING IS NEEDED to KEEP the lead AND KEEP moving. (a little Calderon & a little CEDI) At this break point maybe even a little Zizic underneath too.

    • MEANT TO MENTION–We have all seen it, LEBRON STANDING AT TOP OF KEY WITH PLAYERS STANDING AROUND-watching waiting usually does NOT WORK. Yes he occasionally hits a step back 3 & that’s great, but it stagnates the others when it doesn’t. HE MUST PENETRATE a few times first & get those 2 pt baskets or FTs. 3 qtr he didn’t do that hardly at all–his rhythm and the teams changed because of it. Again-NO Coaching .

  4. Very nice I agree. A team with LeBron should not at any point struggle. A team who plays their star player almost 38 mins per game is not a good team. The other players dont develop and the coach cant see how other players do under pressure. Lue sets his rotation that does not include Cedi, Zizic, Thompson the ones he chose is not giving anything and these 3 players just sit there. What makes it worse is that these are 3 players that are not afraid of big moments. Thompson may not have had a good year but he will give more than they are getting. Zizic and Osman play euro league like Bogdanovic. They play for their country that is pressure.

    I am venting but for a team that is not cheap how is it that the players they have is never enough, what is it, the talent scouts, the coach, LeBron? At the beginning of the season, it was this is the best bench and deepest team LeBron has ever had. That wasn’t working At the end of the season LeBron has no help. Every year there is a 3-6 player turnover via trade, that should not be happening on a finals team. Lue doesnt put his players in position to gain confidence and succeed, the result is what you see now.

  5. Cavs are a hot mess. Not giving up on them at all, but they are a mess. It starts with Lue not knowing who to play or what to run at any given moment. He got lucky a couple years ago. But his luck has run out.

    I am taking this thing one game at a time, but the Cavs looked like they quit at halftime in game 3. They are not nearly as good as they think they are. If the Pacers pull off the upset, then kudos to them: they deserve to advance with their gritty play. But when a player named Bojan Bogdanovich outplays LeBron James in the playoffs, it’s time for me to radically alter my expectations of the King and his merry band of invisible men. I think the Pacers will take game 4 and it won’t be a very close game either. Pacers by 10.

  6. Cedi needs to play Sunday, or we lose. Zizic should also play. I’ve been saying it since game 1. Cedi is the only guard we have who can defend Oladipo 1 on 1. The trapping obviously did not work, because it left Bojan wide open, and he’s too good of a shooter to leave open. Lue needs to wake up and let Cedi play, or this series is over. So far Lue’s gameplan has not worked at all… 2 losses and only 1 win, in which LeBron had to score 46 in order for us to barely hold on for a 3 point win. If Lue can’t wake up and realize that he needs to play more guys in the rotation, then he will get fired, but unfortunately for us, it will be too late. Stop being so damn stubborn, and let other guys play. If someone is cold, take them out and try someone on the bench. Lue is like a broken record… he keeps trying the same rotations over and over and it’s not working. Make adjustments and match-up. If Lue doesn’t want to coach, then he should step back, admit that he’s not healthy enough to continue, and let Larry Drew take over.

  7. Sam, do the Cavs have an analytics department? If so, I wish you’d write about this, so as to better inform us on the extent Lue uses this department. Thanks.

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