The Cavaliers were playing on the road one night after an emotional victory at home.
But what happened Wednesday at Indiana was unacceptable.
The verdict: Pacers 96, Cavs 81.
The sentence: Most likely the wrath of coach Byron Scott.
The truth: Life in the NBA, with its constant stream of back-to-back games and lack of respect from the referees, can be brutal and downright unfair.
The lesson: Get used to it, kids.
Most of all, you can’t excuse blowing a 16-point lead, which the Cavs owned in the first half.
Think about that — they led by 16, and lost by 15.
They also scored a miserable 23 points in the second half — after scoring 58 in the first.
No easy way to stomach that, and the Cavs can’t keep blowing double-digit leads, I don’t care if their star point guard is 12-years old.
Instead, Kyrie Irving is 20, and while this was hardly his fault, he didn’t play with near the energy he displayed in Tuesday’s exciting home win over the Lakers.
In that game, Irving finished with 28 points and 11 assists. In this one, he tied his season low of nine points and compiled just four assists.
Yes, Irving is likely working his way back after missing 11 games with a broken finger. But not every game is gonna be against Kobe, fellas. If you want to accomplish something in this league, you gotta get it done when the legs are heavy and the opponent is uninteresting.
So far, the Cavs (5-18) are the opposite of a team that understands how to close out potential wins. (Anyone remember them blowing that 26-point lead in Phoenix earlier this season?)
That’s youth. That’s a lack of good health. That’s an unjust schedule and shoddy officiating.
That’s also a lack of effort, though, and that cannot be pardoned.
The Pacers are a rough-and-tumble team that plays with an edge. They slap, grab, poke and pull, and it’s accepted because that’s just their style. The Cavs countered that with crisp ball movement and some nifty shooting from C.J. Miles in the first half.
Then came the second half and the Pacers remained physical. It was the Cavs who decided that it was just too much, settling for long shots and, aside from Samardo Samuels, refusing to even consider taking the ball to the basket.
Nothing against Samuels, who does a pretty nice job when finding minutes, but if he’s your lone ray of hope … well, you get the idea.
Samuels actually finished second on the Cavs in scoring. He had 10 points.
Take a moment to reflect on that one.
Miles led the way with 28, but that’s less impressive when you consider 23 came in the first half.
But he was hardly alone. The Cavs reached a new kind of unspeakable low by making eight of 41 shots in the final 24 minutes.
Eight. Of 41.
Anderson Varejao finished 0-for-9 from the floor. Alonzo Gee went 0-for-7. And Cavs fans everywhere screamed Oh-for-No.
Now, this isn’t intended to trash Irving, Varejao, Gee or anyone anywhere. The Cavs certainly don’t deserve that.
In truth, it’s part of the growing process. But so is realizing you messed up bad, finding ways to rectify it, and doing everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Hopefully, the players know that now, because regardless of their lack of experience in these situations, the management, the coach and the fans already expect more from this team.
This is a league where almost no excuse is acceptable. Even if you probably have one.