A day after an emotional Cavaliers team meeting including players, coaches, and the general manager, nothing has changed.
Cleveland went to San Antonio at full strength and got shown up by a Spurs team without its best player. On the night LeBron James scored his 30,000th career point, Cleveland got trounced, 114-102, for its 11th loss in 15 games.
The Cavs’ defeat was another disturbing blemish on what was supposed to be a season with championship expectations. Instead, Cleveland’s defense — one of the worst in the league — was open for business.
The Spurs shot 50 percent from the field, highlighted by 30 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 19 points, 10 rebounds, and seven steals from Dejounte Murray in his first full-time start at point guard over Tony Parker. Murray’s stat line was one a rare occurrence in NBA history.
But if it’s even feasible, the Cavaliers’ offense was worse than its defense. Cleveland turned the ball over 18 times with only 19 assists. A team that relies on the three ball, the Cavs shot just 28.6 percent from downtown. Isaiah Thomas shot just 3-of-9 from the field, and Derrick Rose went through a stretch where he turned the ball over three times in three minutes.
Jeff Green and Dwyane Wade played well off the bench, and James totaled 28 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. It wasn’t enough.
The Cavaliers have got to figure things out
Defensively, Cleveland has issues from within. The Cavs need a rim protector, sure, but each player needs to take it upon themselves to commit to the defensive end. The energy just wasn’t there, nor was the communication, and both have been M.I.A. all season long.
Thomas had a rough night, and it’ll take him a while before fully recovering from his hip injury. Rose is still figuring things out in Cleveland, and trading for George Hill might be a great move after all. But the Cavaliers don’t look like a team on the verge of making their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
They look like a team ready to cede control to a younger, more hungry conference rival.
Some of Cleveland’s problems are fixable, and general manager Koby Altman is expected to pull the trigger on a deal to improve the roster in the near future. But a lack of effort is inexcusable. And until the Cavaliers bring it every night, nothing will change.