Cleveland returns to out-of-focus ways not seen in a while vs. Clippers.
By SAM AMICOFS Ohio
CLEVELAND — Well, this much is clear about the Cavaliers: They haven’t arrived.
We already knew that going into their 105-89 loss to the visiting
Clippers on Friday night. But this one put a couple of exclamation points and a frowny face at the end.
Cavs were outsmarted, outhustled, outmanned and out of luck after winning four of their previous five.
Now, nothing wrong with losing to a team like the Clippers. When they’re focused on defense, they’re extremely dangerous. Like, title-worthy dangerous.
When the Cavs beat the Clippers in LA earlier this season, the Clippers were nothing like they are now. They were a deep and talented team that basically refused to do anything but run, gun and have lots of fun.
They figured out that if you want to get somewhere when it really matters, you need to bend your knees, shuffle your feet and stick out your elbows. They did that all game Friday. The Cavs did it for about 12 minutes.
And that right there is the disappointing part.
Nobody really expected the Cavs to win, especially not when they were missing Kyrie Irving with a sore knee for the third straight game. Eventually, that type of absence catches up with you.
On the bright side, Irving was a game-time decision and should play Monday when New York rolls into town.
On the downside, that dose of positive news did nothing for the players who were actually in uniform.
Dion Waiters gave another decent showing, scoring 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. This came after being named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month right about at tipoff.
He played like it early, driving, dunking, dishing, and just generally dominating. Then the Clippers figured him out, did a little adjusting, and Waiters turned into a non-factor.
Can’t blame him, though. He’s not used to being the focal point. Unfortunately, no one else really stepped up to help him. C.J. Miles scored 16 in a solid game off the bench, and Tristan Thompson added 15 and 12 rebounds.
But, at best, everyone was just OK. Without Irving, the Cavs (20-39) needed someone to be exceptional.
Or at the very least, they needed to display the ball movement, hustle and swagger that have been so evident since the All-Star break.
Again, they got none of it.
Making things worse was the fact that Jamal Crawford did his best James Harden impersonation off the bench. Or more accurately, Crawford was doing his best Crawford impersonation.
The guy can fill it up, creating openings for himself via the dribble and firing away. He finished with a game-high 24, and every time the Cavs looked like they might make a little run, Crawford buried them.
For Pete’s sake, the man even banked in a three-pointer from near the top of the key.
Hard to believe he was once drafted by the Cavs (in 2000), then immediately traded for someone named Chris Mihm, who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2009.
Anyway, that’s really nothing more than a little history lesson.
The Clippers (43-18) also have several fellows by the names of Blake Griffin (16 points), Chris Paul (15 assists) and Chauncey Billups (immeasurable leadership). That clan can only help when the subject is success.
The Cavs only have some promise and a recent hot streak on which to hang their hat.
So, yes, the fact they’re inexperienced and just not as talented counts for something in games like these. Feel free to pin the loss on that.
But the manner in which they lost … well, you can’t really ever excuse that.