CLEVELAND — Byron Scott wanted the Cavaliers to display more energy against crummy opponents, and man, no one better to use for a trial run than the Charlotte Bobcats.
They’re as crummy as they come.
But instead of stinking right along with them, the Cavs turned Wednesday’s game at the Q into 48 minutes of garbage time.
Final score: Cavs 122, Bobcats 95.
But let’s forget about the numbers, because they really are beside the point. Scott got what he wanted here, and that, folks, is progress.
Usually, the Cavs face an 11-37 team like the Bobcats and give an 11-37 performance.
Instead, the Cavs looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder — and one game after beating the Thunder, no less.
So how’s this for a stat: The Cavs beat the league’s best and worst teams in consecutive games. And they did it with style both times.
“Discipline, discipline,” was how reserve guard Shaun Livingston explained the Cavs’ double-double of success.
Scott went into a little more detail.
“This was one of those games where I was really curious to see if we’ve learned from our past mistakes, and if we’ve grown as a basketball team,” he said. “I can say we definitely have. Now we just have to keep it going.”
Again, we’re talking about the Bobcats here.
But we’re also talking about the Cavs (15-34). They lost at home to the Sacramento Kings. They got blown out by the Detroit Pistons. They tend to play their worst when the opponent doesn’t have an All-Star representative.
Basically, everything was set up for the Cavs to get flushed down the toilet. Instead, they won by the largest margin in Scott’s 2 ½ seasons.
“We’re getting better every single game,” point guard Kyrie Irving said.
Irving scored a game-high 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, and a lot of fans probably could swear he got half of them with his eyes closed. It was as effortless a scoring performance as you’ll see from a guy responsible for running the team – as Irving drilled all five of his 3-point attempts.
And, oh yeah, he sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Same goes for Tristan Thompson, who missed just one of his eight shots on his way to 17 points and nine rebounds. Thompson came out on fire, took it right at the Bobcats’ big men, and never relented. You could argue he had the best night of anyone.
Dion Waiters added 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting, playing less than half the game himself.
Think about all that, then consider this – we’re talking about two second-year guys (Irving, Thompson) and a rookie (Waiters). Already, they’re getting Scott’s message.
It was a message the coach delivered pretty loudly following last week’s stinker against the Pistons. So forget beating the Thunder. Scott wanted to see how the Cavs would fare against a non-playoff team.
No problem, coach, the players seemed to say Wednesday.
“We wanted to come out and really lay the hammer down,” Thompson said.
The Cavs (15-34) have now won five of seven
As for the Bobcats, well, um, yikes.
They’ve lost a whopping nine games by 30 or more points since the start of last season — and only avoided it Wednesday because the Cavs have a heart. And despite all the lottery picks, the Bobcats don’t really have a true-blue go-to guy.
Oh, they have some nice players. But they’re still mostly a mishmash of inconsistent youth and not-entirely-interested veterans.
“I thought (former Cavs guard) Ramon Sessions played extremely hard and always stays in the game mentally,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “Tyrus Thomas also joined the party.”
Actually, if this was a party, it was one in which the Bobcats’ parents came home early and sent all the kids racing out of the house.
It’s the type of opponent the Cavs needed, the kind they got, and for once, the kind they paddled.