You’re not the only person tired of seeing the Cavaliers bring it against the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder — and stink up the joint against the Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings.
Byron Scott is tired of it, too. That ought to count for something, considering he’s the Cavs’ coach.
You know the story. These young Cavs have played with tons of energy when it comes to facing the league’s most-prestigious teams. They beat Boston, Oklahoma City and the Lakers at home. They came within seconds of doing the same to Miami and New York on the road.
Meanwhile, they struggle against the Washington Wizards of the world. They got swept by the Kings. They won at Atlanta when the Hawks were on top of their game.
On and on it goes, and it’s not unusual for a team that’s started two second-year players (Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson) and two rookies (Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller) for a long stretch of the season.
But that doesn’t make it OK. At least, it doesn’t as far as Scott is concerned.
Following a fairly weak effort at Detroit on Friday, Scott decided he’d seen enough. Well, he probably had actually seen enough before that — but Friday, he decided to do something about it.
Scott closed the locker room doors and let loose.
“I was pretty upset,” he said Monday. “I said my piece.”
And that’s the polite-as-possible version.
The Cavs responded, of course, with a determined victory over the Thunder the next night. It was a game in which Irving made all the highlight shows by shooting over and around and almost through Thunder stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
In the end, Irving had 35 points and three or four huge shots near the end to put the game away.
But it was hardly a one-man show. Just as Irving wasn’t solely to blame for the Cavs’ embarrassment in Detroit, he wasn’t solely responsible for their stunner over OKC.
“It’s a team game,” Scott said Friday.
It truly is, as it couldn’t have happened without newcomer Marreese Speights (21 points, 10 rebounds), C.J. Miles (16 points, 5-for-7 shooting) and the forever-improving Tristan Thompson (11 points, 12 boards).
Afterward, Scott wasn’t smiling. He didn’t say it, but the lack of effort and energy the night before against the Pistons still had to sting.
Scott repeated his sentiments Monday.
“I know that’s a team in Detroit that plays hard and they’re a physical basketball team. You scratch your head more on that game because our guys know that, too,” he said. “When we go out and lay an egg like that, that one is more mind-boggling than the way we came out against OKC. I knew just from fear of being embarrassed we were going to come out and compete.”
Miles echoed his coach.
“We’ve got to be willing to get on the floor and leave it all out there,” he said. “Energy should not be a problem. The guys with the heavy minutes, the oldest guy is 22 or 23 years old. It should never be a problem.”
Perhaps the Cavs’ truest test of the season, then, comes Wednesday. That’s when they’re playing the worst team in the league, record-wise, in the Charlotte Bobcats. The Cavs will do so at home, too.
So everything is all set up for another lackluster performance. Scott and the Cavs hope to have changed all that.
“It shouldn’t take the big teams to come in here for us to be able to come out and play (with energy),” Miles said. “We can’t come out thinking we should just win games based on talent, no matter who it is. We’re 14-34. Teams come into our building thinking the same thing. They think, ‘We should beat them.’ They look at our record like we look at other teams’ records and look down at them.”
The result has been the Cavs looking at the wrong end of the scoreboard on too many occasions. Granted, this season isn’t about wins and losses. But it is about forming good habits — giving the same type of effort against every opponent.
“Hopefully, our guys go home tonight and say, ‘Hey, you know what? We got to play this way every single night,’” Scott said Friday. “It still doesn’t guarantee we’re going to win. But at least it gives us an opportunity.”