Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers' 112-107 stunner of a loss to the host Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
1. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue has been begging his team to close out on shooters. Sometimes, he's angrily demanding it. And the Cavs still aren't getting the message.
2. With the Cavs clinging to a 104-103 lead and 45 seconds to go, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie dribbled outside the 3-point line and prepared to shoot. J.R. Smith backed up. Granted, Dinwiddie was way, way out. But Smith gave him a fraction to think, set and fire. By the time J.R. closed out, it was too late.
3. It was hardly a terrible closeout and this isn't intended to pick on Smith. Everyone was to blame here. Dinwiddie also deserves credit for making a gusty three. But it was the type of play that can make smoke explode from Lue's ears.
4. Again, the Cavs aren't getting the message defensively. The idea is simple: Opponents wants to stay behind the arc and comfortably fire up shots. Don't let them. Ever. Make them put the ball on the floor. Shooters don't want to dribble.
5. The Cavs didn't do it at all against Orlando. Loss. They barely did it against Chicago. Almost loss. They did it less against Brooklyn. Another loss.
6. Lue was fed up. "We're running around here worrying about getting the Brooklyn pick; they might want our pick," he told reporters.
7. Lue was referring to the fact the Cavs own the Nets' draft pick, via the Kyrie Irving trade with Boston. So it's in the Cavs' best interest to beat the Nets -- and therefore, land a higher pick.
8. Anyway, none of that really matters at the moment. The draft isn't until June. The Cavs' issues are right now.
9. As I've written 100 times, the Cavs are an older team, the oldest in the league. They are everyone else's championship. That's just the way it goes when you have LeBron James. Meanwhile, the Cavs clearly have a hard time getting pumped for the so-called nobodies of the basketball world. Problem is, the Cavs are no longer good enough to take opponents lightly.
10. James again was magnificent from the point guard position -- compiling his first triple-double of the season. He finished with 29 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. He has played point guard on two consecutive nights. He is averaging 31.5 points and 13 assists. And the Cavs as a whole have looked so-so at best both times.
11. James also sounded perturbed about the Cavs' inability to defend the arc. "This league is 3-point shot and we've got to get adjusted and cover that line," he told the media.
12. Kyle Korver added 22 points and even swatted a shot. He has been very good in the early-going. Ditto for Jeff Green, who scored 18 and grabbed six rebounds.
13. Smith (two points) and Tristan Thompson (three) have not been good. Smith is missing shots and occasional defensive assignments. After Dinwiddie hit that three, Smith missed a wide-open biggie. Thompson is still getting rebounds (he had eight), but other than that, doesn't seem like a big part of things. Lue has to figure out how to get both men going, somehow, someway.
14. As for Kevin Love, well, it appears to be more of the same. He typically puts up great numbers (15 points, 12 rebounds vs. the Nets), but seemingly is making little difference in the actual outcome. The Cavs need Love to step up, assert himself, start playing with an edge and deliver in the clutch. He is still too often at his best in the first half.
15. The Cavs (3-2) are off until Saturday, when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans. Last year, they lost in New Orleans and the Pelicans didn't even have star big man Anthony Davis. Instead, it was Terrence Jones picked them apart. Jones isn't even in the league this season. But that's just the way it has gone for Lue, James and so many of these Cavs for too long now. Lue knows it, James knows it, but do the rest of the Cavs?
16. On top of all that, the Cavs went 17-of-26 from the free-throw line in a tight game. Both James and Love missed important foul shots at the end. That must change.
17. And I haven't mentioned how the Nets played without leading scorer and top guard D'Angelo Russell, sidelined with a sprained knee.
18. Is it panic time in Cleveland? Hardly. Is it time to break out the old internet trade machines and start wondering how this team can improve, how it can be less maddening? Yeah, maybe.