Nights like this are gonna happen, but that doesn’t always make them enjoyable or easier to handle.
The verdict: Brooklyn 114, Cavaliers 101 on Tuesday in a game that was only close when it didn’t really seem to matter.
This was the Cavs’ first visit to the new Barclays Center, and the only people who appeared willing to get the most out of it were Anderson Varejao and (who else?) Kyrie Irving.
Varejao did his best Moses Malone impersonation, scoring a career-high 35 points and grabbing a whopping 18 rebounds. Varejao also went 16-of-21 from the floor, and even his misses came doggone close. Twenty-one of those points came in the first quarter, when the Cavs actually held a 30-29 lead.
Meanwhile, Irving started considerably slower — but as he often does, came on strong at the end to finish with 34 points and eight assists.
Problem is, the Cavs have to rest those guys once in a while. And through the first eight games, man, that’s been one angry whopper of a problem.
On Tuesday, the bench produced all of two field goals, both from forward Jon Leuer. When you consider Leuer was whistled for the same amount of traveling violations … well, you get the picture.
The bottom line is if the Cavs want to contend for a playoff spot, they may need to make some sort of trade for bench help. Then again, who off the bench would anyone else want at this point?
Either way, things aren’t necessarily downright dreadful. Irving and Varejao make this team competitive on most nights, with opposing coaches utterly lauding the Cavs’ pick-and-roll game (particularly between those two).
Also, rookie Dion Waiters appears to be a true find — although he spent the latter stages of the trip heaving too many shots from the perimeter, and driving to the basket a lot less. But hey, he’s a rookie who has yet to play even 10 NBA games.
Thankfully, the six-game trip is OVER. It provided a few highlight-worthy moments and reasons for hope — but just one win. In this business, that victory stuff is the only thing that counts. Right now, the Cavs have just two of them (compared to six losses).
They now get three days to put in some work before their next game, not until Saturday vs. Dallas at The Q. With this team, there’s no telling how that might go.
Along with the bench, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get each night from starting forwards Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee (and even Waiters). All are very young, not entirely polished and still finding their way. It can be a difficult process in the world’s best basketball league.
In spite of those things, the Cavs are giving people reasons to pay attention. Whether it’s their execution of the pick-and-roll, Irving’s remarkable handle, Varejao’s vigor or Waiters’ continued development … this team is already in a better place than it was last year.
All it needs to do now is finish the job. Or at least get enough help to have a chance.
The starters are doing their part. Something has to be done about the bench, though, or the Cavs will be talking about another top-five draft pick in June.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing — unless, of course, it isn’t the goal. Trouble is, where do you find help in reserve at this time of year?
The answer is one the Cavs had better figure out, and they probably should try to do it, like, now. Either someone needs to step up or they’ll have to go outside the organization.
• Waiters finished just 3-for-16 shooting for eight points. Two of the makes were dunks off the fast break.
• The Big Three of the Nets looked about as good as it could — with Deron Williams scoring 26 points, Joe Johnson going for 25 and Brook Lopez totaling 23. Johnson looks a bit heavier this year, but he can still get it done from the perimeter. The Nets, by the way, are 4-2.
• Johnson is typically at his best when he takes a dribble or less. Late in the game, the Cavs stopped making Johnson put the ball on the floor, and heated quickly heated up.
• Irving went 14-for-14 on free throws. Overall, the Cavs were 22-for-26 from the line, a much-needed improvement when you think about the first seven games.
• Opposing team executive on the Cavs: “They’re fine. People like to panic. But they’ve had, what, two home games? I think they’ll compete for a playoff spot. All you need to do is beat the sub-.500 teams at home and steal a few on the road. They’re certainly capable of that.”
• Former Cavs point guard Ramon Sessions scored 21 points for Charlotte in a 92-76 win over Washington. Don’t look now, but the Bobcats are 3-3.