Pindowns: Cavs were in LA-LA land from the jump

LeBron James of the Cavaliers rejects DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers at the rim Friday night at Staples Center.

A 52-pickup edition of random pindowns after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 116-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center…

1. Remember the Cavaliers’ trip to Napa Valley back on Dec. 27? The team was out West, playing at Golden State on Christmas Day (a 99-92 loss), then bowed at Sacramento two nights later, 109-95. Coach Tyronn Lue came up with the plan to tour Napa Valley the next day. Two nights later, the Cavs completed being swept on their trip with a 104-101 loss at Utah.

2. The point here is, Cleveland flew out of Denver after an impressive 113-108 takedown of the Nuggets and into Los Angeles. The Cavaliers spent all day Thursday and Friday in LA, then were outscored in the first quarter by the Clippers, 35-17.

3. It was obvious from the jump Cleveland (38-27) was not ready to play. In the land of glitz, glamour and bright lights, the Cavaliers came out resembling tourists. All that was missing were the cameras around their necks, the maps in their hands and them asking for directions to the next stop on the tour. It’s not difficult to imagine them singing in unison this nauseating Randy Newman song.

4. It’s true, a team can’t win a game in the first quarter. However, it sure can lose one, and that was the case here.

5. That said, who is responsible for a team being ready to play, or in the Cavaliers’ case Friday night, not being ready to play? Same guy, different night, different city.

6. That would be Lue. The first quarter has not been kind to Cleveland this season and whether it’s not putting the the most effective starting lineup on the floor (hello, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson) or his players not being focused, prepared and ready to play, it falls on Lue’s shoulders. That’s on him.

7. “It was just a nasty game for us offensively, being bad with the basketball, missing layups,” Lue offered as an explanation.

8. “We had a bad game,” he continued. “Offensively, they did a good job with the game plan, switching everything and we didn’t make shots early, which kind of hurt us. We had a lot of open shots early that we normally make. We fumbled the basketball missed a lot of layups.”

9. In the big picture, the result of the game matters only in terms of playoff seeding for the Cavaliers. With both LeBron James and Lue saying after the impressive win in Denver that seeding isn’t important to the Cavaliers, the focus isn’t really on the loss… it’s on who was lost.

10. Rodney Hood left the game after the first quarter with what the team said was a lower back strain and did not return. Starting in Hood’s stead, rookie Cedi Osman played less than four minutes in the second half before leaving with what was reported as a left hip strain. After the game, Lue called it a groin injury. Hood did not talk to reporters after the game, but Osman told ESPN, “I tried to run and then I heard a pop from my groin. I felt pain and I couldn’t run. Right now, when I’m walking and when I try to lift my leg up, I feel pain.”

11. Already playing without five-time All-Star Kevin Love (broken left hand) and Thompson (sprained right ankle), losing Hood and Osman meant Lue was without four guys who stand 6-foot-8 or more.

12. “A lot of teams are hurt,” Lue said. “It’s tough when you’re missing guys but, tonight we could’ve used Kevin. Space (Clippers center) DeAndre (Jordan) out a little bit at the 5. Get him out of the paint, protecting the paint. But, you know, next man up, gotta be ready to play. Messed our rotation up a lot, but that’s part of the game. Injuries are part of the game. Next man step up and play.”

13. James agreed. “Everybody has to step up,” he said. “We know it’s a challenge for us to rebound without our frontcourt. We had some breaks that didn’t go our way but that’s fine.”

14. The Clippers (35-29) certainly punished the Cavaliers on the glass, outrebounding them 52-40, outscoring them in the paint, 58-42 and in second-chance points, 25-8.

15. The big (literally) factor in all of that was Jordan, the Clippers’ 6-11 All-Star center, who scored 20 points and hauled down 23 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, adding a steal and a block in 34 minutes.

16. Jordan, twice an NBA All-NBA defensive team selection and a three-tie All-Star, was long-rumored to be headed to Cleveland before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, but the deal that would have sent Jordan, who has a $24.1 million player option on the books for next season, to the Cavaliers never came to fruition.

17. James was asked after the game if he ever thinks, “What if?” in regards to Jordan becoming a Cavalier.

18. “No. At the end of the day, like I told you before, I don’t play fantasy basketball,” James said. “I knew the conversations were going on from the outside. I saw it. If it would have happened it would have given us a boost, but it didn’t happen so you move on.”

19. Larry Nance Jr. has thrived since taking over for Thompson as Cleveland’s starting center, posting three consecutive double-doubles, including 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting) and 12 boards in 30 minutes against the Clippers. In his three starts as a Cavalier, Nance is averaging 17.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 32.7 minutes, shooting 62.9 percent (22 of 35) from the field.

20. He admitted, though, dealing with Jordan is quite a challenge, not to mention Clippers backup big men Montrezl Harrell (20 points, 5 boards), and the monstrous Boban Marjanovic (6 points, 3 rebounds). “It was exhausting,” Nance said. “They’ve got some very talented dudes down there. … Offensive rebounds, I’ll shoulder the load on that. That’s on me. It was a team effort, but I’ll shoulder most of it.”

21. James was impressed, though not surprised with the play of Harrell, obtained from Houston as part of the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Rockets back on June 28. “He’s been playing that way all season so it wasn’t a surprise,” James said. “He came in with energy, effort. He’s going to punish the smaller guy if they’re on him. He’s going to rebound.”

22. In the last three games, Nance — who has now scored in double fgures a career-high six consecutive games — has matched up against Detrot’s Andre Drummond, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Jordan.

23. “(Jordan) and Drummond are in the same genre, but just different versions,” Nance said. “But D.J. presents so many challenges in the pick-and-roll because when he slips out of it, you can throw it anywhere from nine feet to 13 feet and it’s a dunk. So you have to take that away while also staying in front of the guard. It’s tough.”

24. Lue also praised Jordan. “He’s big, athletic, a great offensive rebounder,” he said. “Big Boban (Marjanovic) came in, he put us at a disadvantage also. Any big around the basket, 25 second-chance points is a lot. It was just a nasty game for us offensively, being bad with the basketball, missing layups. They did a good job of making us stagnant by switching everything and double-teaming LeBron and we just didn’t make shots.”

25. As usual, James led the Cavs with 25 points (on 11-of-20 shooting), adding 10 boards and six assists, two steals and three blocked shots in 39 minutes. It marked his 38th double-double of the season.

26. James, who is second in the NBA in minutes per game (37.1) and has played in all 65 games, re-entered the game earlier than usual in the fourth quarter after Los Angeles pushed its advantage back to 15 points.

27. Did coming back sooner than normal take its toll on the seemingly indefatigable James? Depends on who you ask.

28. “LeBron got a little tired,” Lue said. “(I) had to bring him back a little earlier than I wanted to in that fourth quarter, try to make a push, and he got a little tired.”

29. James did not agree. “Fatigue is never a factor with me,” he said. “You always try to get a minute here, a minute there so you can have fresh legs as much as possible, but they made another run, we were able to cut it to end the third and then they made another run. So, T-Lue wanted me to go back in a little bit earlier than usual.”

30. James played 7:42 in the fourth quarter, scoring five points, making 2-of-5 shots. When James re-entered with 9:07 to go, Cleveland trailed by 13 points. Even with James back in the fray, the Cavaliers got no closer than eight points.

31. For what it’s worth, Cleveland’s last lead in the game was 7-4.

32. Jordan Clarkson played very well in his return to Staples Center. He came off the bench to post 21 points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 25 minutes. The former Laker, acquired with Nance on Feb. 8, shot 6-of-12, including an outstanding 4-of-5 from deep, and went a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.

33. Smith joined James, Clarkson and Nance in reaching double figures for the Cavaliers, scoring 15 points and adding three rebounds, five assists and three steals in 35 productive minutes.

34. Nance downplayed playing his first game in Los Angeles since being traded to Cleveland, saying the game Sunday against his former Lakers teammates will be a much bigger deal.

35. “It was good. Whether I was with the Lakers or the Cavs, this was always still a road game,” he said. “Sunday is the real one.”

36. The Cavaliers will attempt to work some of the kinks out at practice Saturday at UCLA in preparation for the matchup with the Lakers on Sunday night.

37. “Obviously, different teams present different threats, but we have to hammer out this offensive rebounding, and defensively, really,” Nance said. “We missed some shots we normally would make, and we’re not worried about that. That’ll go.”

38. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked before the game if Father Time will make up ground on James.

39. “I hope tonight for one game,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know. With him it’s going to, it does with everybody, but he can do so many things if he wants to. He can turn into a power forward at some point. Right now he’s a speed 4 and a power 3. He’s got five or six more years of just playing the 4 position.”

40. More Rivers on LeBron: “I don’t know when it slows down. It won’t be athletically, it looks like, it will be mentally at some point. I think guys like him just get tired of it.”

41. After the game, Rivers credited the way his team, which is battling for a playoff spot in the West, played against the Cavaliers.

42. “We moved the ball, played fast and attacked,” he said. “Our defense was tremendous. LeBron is eventually going to get some, but we guarded everyone else.”

43. Rookie Sindarius Thornwell (14 points, 4 rebounds in 37 minutes) was tasked with attempting to slow down James most of the night.

44. “You’re not going to block his shot,” Thornwell said. “Just stay in front of him and make it tough for him. It takes a team to slow him down, it wasn’t just me.”

45. “We wanted to load up and give him (Thornwell) as much help as possible,” Jordan said. “We knew how important this game was.”

46. The Clippers still hold the final playoff spot in the West, just percentage points ahead of Denver (36-30) and Utah (36-30), who are tied for ninth. They trail third-place Portland (40-26) — winner of nine straight games — by four games, fourth-place New Orleans (38-27) by 2.5 games and are 1.5 games behind San Antonio (37-28), Minnesota (38-29) and Oklahoma City (38-29).

47. The loss snapped Cleveland’s five-game road winning streak. The Cavaliers are now 16-16 on the road for the season.

48. Though playoff seeding is said (by both James and Lue) to not be important to the Cavaliers, they hold on a half-game lead on fourth-place Washington (38-28) and fifth-place Indiana (38-28), a 2.5-game edge on sixth-place Philadelphia (35-29) and a 3.5-game lead on seventh-place Miami (35-31) and eighth-place Milwaukee (35-31).

49. The famous (infamous?) stat this season with the Cavaliers is their record when Thompson does not play compared to when he does. After the loss to the Clippers, Cleveland is now 19-4 when Thompson, who is probably a week away from returning from his sprained right ankle, does not play, compared to 19-23 when he does.

50. Next up for the Cavaliers will be a reunion with former teammates Thomas and Frye when they play the Lakers on Sunday night at Staples Center.

51. Former Cavs guard Isaiah Thomas is averaging 15.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 39.2 percent, including 32.3 percent from 3, in 25.4 minutes in 11 games, all off the bench for the Lakers, who are 6-5 in games he’s played. Thomas began his time in LA wearing No. 7, but has since changed to No. 3.

52. Ex-Cavs big man Channing Frye, who underwent an appendectomy in Cleveland last month, has played one game since being traded to the Lakers, making the only shot he attempted — a 3-pointer, fittingly — and committing two fouls in 11 minutes in a loss at New Orleans on Feb. 14.

3 Comments on "Pindowns: Cavs were in LA-LA land from the jump"

  1. Whoever decided (Lue/LBJ ) that they play small ball is crazy. 6’8” centers? Just look at the last two games: center scores almost at will against them. Plus not rim protection at all ever. Be over early this year.

  2. The Cavs should play ” let’s pretend” for the rest of the road trip and envision themselves as being the current 9th seed. Maybe that will force them to play with more fire. There isn’t much we can do about monster bigs like Jordan, with TT and Love currently out (and Lue refusing to give Zizic more minutes).
    But these bad first quarters are killing us. Everyone should take a cue from Clarkson. He makes mistakes, but he is fearless and brings it every night. And typical Lue mismanages rotations, so we have struggling Green all
    4th quarter while Clarkson sits, and exhausted Nance/LeBron on the boards in the 4th while 7 foot Zizic sits. I’ve pretty much given up on Lue as a coach,but the least he can do is try to get it into his veterans heads that they’re not a lock for anything this year. Other teams are right on our heels, and if we don’t rack up some good wins on this trip, we could get knocked down to 5th seed very easily.

  3. Lue coaching is just bad. When Nance pickup his 2nd foul early the game changed. Lue made a sub he took out Hood leaving in Nance. The team lost its aggressiveness. To the fourth Green and Korver and Hill none shooting well instead of Clarkson who was playing well.

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