CLEVELAND — A week ago, Byron Scott said he’s not out of ideas, and the man offered evidence Wednesday by changing his lineup.
The result: Another home loss for Scott and the Cavaliers.
This one came courtesy of the Sacramento Kings, 97-94, in front of a crowd that was barely larger than 12,000 strong.
The Cavs could use all their early-season road games as an excuse for their 7-26 record, but they don’t. That’s probably a good thing, because they’re a miserable 3-11 in front of their very own fans.
Worse, the Kings came in with a 1-13 road record.
Numbers like that make you think three things: Yuck, yuck and double yuck.
Anyway, all of that is really beside the point. What matters here is the Cavs just aren’t winning. They’re young, we know that, and no one should be standing around pointing fingers. It’s easy to do, but it’s much too soon for any of that stuff.
Of more concern is the inconsistency, the questions about the overall progress, the inability to close out games like this at home. No one expects the Cavs to do it on a nightly basis. But once a week might be nice. Just, you know, to show that they’re really headed in the right direction.
And everyone who is sick of seeing opposing players hit huge three-pointers (usually from the corner), please raise your hand. It’s happened way too often this season, and it happened again (you guessed it) Wednesday night.
This time the bad guy was Kings small forward John Salmons, who most of us figured had retired like three years ago.
Salmons indeed looked out of it for most of this night — at least, he did until there was 1:12 left in the game. That’s when he hit his wide-open corner three, giving the Kings a 92-90 lead and deflating the Cavs.
The Cavs, in fact, never led again. So make it three straight losses overall and an unacceptable five straight at The Q.
More painful, of course, is the Cavs seemed to have this one in the bag for a while. They kept things even in the first half, then overcame a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to regain the lead against a bad team in the fourth.
It had all the makings of a great start to the New Year.
Then the Cavs collapsed again. And again, it was nothing major, nothing overly evident. Just little plays here and there.
You can brush it off to the Cavs’ just being young, but here’s the hitch: The Kings are pretty doggone young, too. They’re also somewhat troubled, with center DeMarcus Cousins undoubtedly the Kings’ most gifted player and easily their largest distraction.
Basically, these are the teams you’re supposed to beat at home. You can lose to the Hawks, the Lakers, the Heat … but the Kings? Come on, man. Close these guys out.
“The only problem I had was we didn’t play hard enough for long enough,” Scott said. “We came out in the third quarter and we weren’t into it, and they kind of got it going again.”
Scott has said that a lot this season, and you hope at some point it’s something his team grasps. You’ve got to bring it every night, against every opponent.
Anyway, about that lineup change. Scott started C.J. Miles at shooting guard in place of rookie Dion Waiters. It wasn’t because Waiters did anything wrong, the coach said. It was merely to “try to find some balance.”
In that regard, it may have helped. Waiters had one his better games, scoring 20 points off the bench and taking the ball to the basket more than usual. He looked especially determined.
Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points, Alonzo Gee scored 16, Miles tallied 12 and Tyler Zeller finished with an understated eight points and eight rebounds.
Add it all up, and the Cavs lost again.
Now, again, losing isn’t so bad when you’re a team like the Cavs. We’ve covered all that.
But there are losses and there are bad losses, and this was one of the bad ones.