CLEVELAND — Five straight. Nine of 10. Fifteen of 17.
If there’s one constant this season, it’s that the Cavaliers are finding ways not to win. They’ve done it while trailing for an entire game. They’ve done it while leading late in the fourth quarter. They’ve done it by keeping things close and by getting blown out (although, in their defense, not much of the latter).
And they did it again Saturday, at home, against a Detroit team that entered the game with a 1-10 road record.
Well, make it 2-10, as the Pistons left the building with a 104-97 victory behind a career-high 30 points from Brandon Knight.
Knight, a second-year guard, went 5-for-6 on 3-pointers and generally made the Cavs miss their own second-year guard. That would be none other than Kyrie Irving, who’s been out several weeks with a broken finger. Rookie guard Dion Waiters has also been out, with a sprained ankle.
The Cavs were 2-8 with those two. They’re considerably worse than the 2-9 they’ve somehow managed without Irving. In the four games without Waiters, the Cavs have yet to win.
So, what’s a team to do?
Um, well, there aren’t really any answers. They might be able to defend a little better, but probably not much. And you can’t really expect them to score much more than the 97 unearthed Saturday. Not without Irving and Waiters.
“Sounds like a broken record, but I think our guys are competing and playing hard,” said Cavs coach Byron Scott.
Through all of this, that much cannot be denied.
Now, here comes another four-games-in-five-nights stretch for a team that’s already suffered through a brutal schedule filled with road games and relentless back-to-backs. And it all kicks off Tuesday at The Q against the L.A. Lakers — an ultra-talented and angry team that’s also had its share of early-season frustration.
It’s almost as if the devil has something serious against this city, and he resides in the office of the NBA schedule-maker. Either there, or courtside at Cavs games.
How else do you explain the injuries to Irving and Waiters, especially at a time when the Cavs may not need to win games, but need those two to obtain all-important game experience?
How else do you explain the fact the Cavs have more protective masks (two) than wins in the Central Division (0-5)?
And how else do you describe what Anderson Varejao (16 points, 13 rebounds) must feel like after all his blood and sweat turned to tears with another Cavs loss?
Yes, that may be a little overly dramatic. Not many folks really expected the Cavs to be a true playoff contender. At least, not many outside of the locker room.
But guess what?
That doesn’t make losing any easier. It doesn’t make it any more fun. It just makes it slightly more tolerable, because clearly, there is a bigger plan in place.
But following that plan, at the moment, can occasionally be no fun for anyone.
“We’ve just got to put four quarters together, which we’ve struggled with all year,” said Cavs rookie center Tyler Zeller, who gave one of his better all-around performances with 13 points and eight boards. “We have slow starts and finish strong and vice versa.”
Someday, the Cavs are expected to do all that. Someday, they plan to have good health, more experience in tight games and opportunities for very good things.
It’s not difficult to believe those things are all possible.
Right now, though, getting there can be tough to swallow.
• Jeremy Pargo led the Cavs with 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting. C.J. Miles added 15 off the bench.
• Scott said he’s hopeful that Waiters and Irving can return Tuesday against the Lakers. He did hint that it’d be “surprising” to have both in uniform that night, however.
• The Pistons (7-15) shot 60 percent (9-for-15) on 3-pointers. Tayshaun Prince contributed 14 points and eight rebounds.
• The Cavs are 2-6 at home. They’ve lost four straight at The Q.