The Cavs laid an egg Monday.
One day after handling Oklahoma City, Cleveland returned home and was thumped by the Pistons, losing 96-88 in a game that wasn’t really that close. Below are a few sobering thoughts in the aftermath.
1. First, the good: Kevin Love. He was aggressive from the start and an offensive force in the first half. Unfortunately, the Cavs reverted to old habits and pretty much marginalized Love in the second half. But he came to play Monday.
2. Which is more than can be said for his teammates. LeBron James was dreadful. There isn’t much more to say about his game Monday. Of course, he’s usually great, which amplifies a rough night even more
3. James missed plenty of shots. Worse than that, he slipped into isolation mode too often. A possession midway through the third quarter defined LeBron’s night -- as he held the ball at the top of the key, not even jab-stepping but standing stationary, as precious seconds dripped off the shot clock. The end result was a fading jumper that didn’t come close.
4. Kyrie Irving scored 30 points but he, too, spent most of the night trying to create for himself.
5. James and Irving are two of the best isolation players in the league. So even with the mad league-wide rush to “play like the Warriors,” I think it’s OK for the Cavs to rely on those two to create points on their own. But not all game and definitely not when the sustained result is a ton of bricks.
6. This is where I think it’s fair to question Tyronne Lue. He failed to rein in two of his stars. It felt, fairly or not, like he was a spectator for most of the game.
7. The Cavs played with very little pace -- both in the half-court and transition offense -- and this goes hand-in-hand with the heavy reliance on LeBron and Irving. It seemed like most possessions were half-court grinds, with no player or ball movement. Again, it’s on Lue to see this and correct it. David Blatt is gone, and there’s no time for a learning curve.
8. One more point on Lue: After the game, he remarked that he should have gone with his gut and sat LeBron on the second night of a back-to-back. While this may have been intended to provide cover for James’ poor performance, I don’t think there is any reason to say it. It makes Lue look indecisive and like another “rookie” head coach Cavs’ fans and media enjoyed bashing from time to time.
9. What to make of clunkers like this one for a team that is supposed to be priming itself for a title run?
10. On one side are alarmists whose faith in the Cavs ebbs and flows from game to game, depending on the outcome. On the other side are the chill apologists who always caution that, “It’s just one game, relax.”
11. I tend to fall in the middle, especially as March approaches. A loss like this one certainly doesn’t preclude a deep run to the Finals. At the same time, games like this are a reminder that the Cavs are not the mentally toughest team and quickly revert to non-productive habits when the going gets a little tough.
12. In most years, there’s usually some margin for error, even for the team that eventually wins the NBA title. This year, that’s probably not the case. So if the Cavs really are legitimate threats to win a title, games like this where the defense is lax, and the offense is stagnant need to go by the wayside, and sooner than later.