The Cleveland Cavaliers went to Sacramento with a two-game winning streak and a newfound confidence in the wake of the Luol Deng trade. The Cavs left with their tail between their legs following a 124-80 drubbing at the hands of the Kings, marking the sixth-worst loss in franchise history.
At the outset of the game, it looked like Cleveland was in pretty good position to take home a third straight win. The Cavs' offense was humming along, and they led 32-30 after the first quarter. Unfortunately, the team just rolled over after that, tallying just 48 points total over the next three quarters.
There was some noticeable frustration on the Cavs' bench as the game got out of hand, with young players Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters showing the most emotion. Cavs head coach Mike Brown acknowledged that he was disappointed with how those two reacted to the adversity, but he also made sure to point out the whole team stunk it up, according to Mary Schmitt-Boyer of The Plain Dealer:
"It might have been those two, it might have been the whole team,'' Brown said as the Cavs fell to 13-24, 3-16 on the road. "We're down, instead of dropping your shoulders and dropping your head, which I felt our group did, fight. Pick up full-court, put some pressure on them defensively. That's the competitive spirit I'm talking about. It was nonexistent tonight. For me that's the most disappointing thing. When the times got tough out there, we didn't react the right way and that's disappointing on the road.''
The 80 points scored by Cleveland was the least amount given up by Sacramento all season. The Cavs' offense has struggled all year and is ranked just 27th in offensive rating, but they had averaged 112.0 points during their two-game winning streak. However, that may have just been a product of the poor defense played by the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.
Deng, who was brought in to help the offense and provide veteran leadership, tried to offer some advice to the young guys on the team:
"It's not the last time we're going to have a bad game. If you're trying to be in this league a long time, you're going to have many days where you're not playing your best. What I asked of everyone is just to have each other's back. If you say something to somebody on the court, it can never be personal. We're on the same team, we're going to battle together. So if you see something out there and you say something to me, it's never personal. I've got to do a better job to make the guy next to me a better player and they have to do the same thing. That's how you win games. For 48 minutes, you go out there and have each other's backs and play as hard as you can. Then you live with the results."
Deng was one of the few players to play relatively decent, scoring 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes. Irving and Waiters had disastrous performances, with the two combining for just 11 points on 4-of-21 shooting and 1-of-8 from three. The Cavs won't win many games when those two play that poorly, but that's little excuse for losing by a whopping 44 points.
The good news for Cleveland is that it's just one loss, and there's still plenty of time to turn things back around. The Cavs are just two games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so a little surge could have them looking at a possible postseason slot. There's an excellent chance to get back in the win column against the scuffling Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, which could provide a confidence boost before wrapping up the five-game road trip with tough games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.