No-fun learning process continues for Cavs

CLEVELAND — Some nights, you just don’t have it.

Some nights, you really do — and the Dallas Mavericks were the latter on Saturday.

Man, were they ever.

Standing there on the other side, witnessing it all, were the poor Cavaliers. And by “poor,” we’re talking about five straight losses, two straight at home and just not a whole lot of confidence that this team is headed anywhere but the NBA draft lottery again.

Granted, it’s much too early to make such predictions without sounding silly, even after the Cavs dropped a 103-95 decision to Dallas on Saturday at The Q.

But the more these young dudes lose these close games (and it was close), the less faith they generate. Both among themselves and the 18,633 in attendance.

There’s no easy way to spin a loss at home … when you’ve had three days of practice … and the other team shoots 51 percent for the game … and 59 percent in the all-important fourth quarter.

That’s especially the case when Cavs coach Byron Scott said the team spent the previous three days emphasizing defense, defense and more defense. When they got done with that, they practiced more defense.

Then the Mavs, playing for the second time in two nights, come out and light up the arena like a fire-breathing scoreboard.

That, in two words or less, really stinks.

It really stinks to see a has-been like Mavs swingman Vince Carter come off the bench and score 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

It really stinks to see a never-really-was like Mavs forward Troy Murphy come off the bench to bury three 3-pointers.

And it really stinks that Mavs backup point guard Dominique Jones spent portions of the game looking like Dominique Wilkins, with the former compiling 10 points and five assists.

Yet the Cavs, bless their 2-7 hearts, were right there the entire time.

They led by one point at halftime and trailed by two at the end of the third. But the Mavs just kept shooting, and making, sometimes even before catching the ball. That’s what happened late in the fourth, when Mavs forward Shawn Marion caught a pass, bobbled it, then sort of slapped the ball toward the rim in traffic.

Two points.

On the other hand, the Cavs missed a lot of shots they normally make. It’s a worn-out expression, but it was the truth on this exasperating night.

Rookie guard Dion Waiters (16 points) shot just 4-for-16. That’s one better than his 3-for-16 performance in the previous game, but still not exactly what you’re looking for.

Center Anderson Varejao frightened the basket to the tune of 2-for-11 shooting. At 30 years old, Varejao is usually the Cavs’ old reliable. When he’s way off, the Cavs are typically burnt toast.

Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was again mostly superb, scoring 26 points and keeping hope alive late. He also finished with zero assists, but when your teammates are laying bricks, what’s a man to do?

Daniel Gibson gave another solid performance with 16 points off the bench, Alonzo Gee scored 15 and Tristan Thompson tacked on 10 points and 12 rebounds. It truly was one of the Cavs’ better performances of the season. It just wasn’t enough, and that’s probably the most frustrating thing.

O.J. Mayo scored 19 to lead the Mavs. Mayo is a former Mr. Ohio Basketball and in his first year with Dallas. At this rate, he may make the All-Star team.

But back to the Cavs. They’re young, they’re still learning and things aren’t as bad as they seem. Right?

“I think everyone knows we’re young,” Scott said. “But young is also a cop-out. We’re still basketball players.”

Once the Cavs accept that, put it in to consistent practice and finish these sort of jobs, they’ll start winning on nights like these.

For now, though, there just isn’t enough there — not enough experience, not enough depth — to know for sure how these nights might go.


• The Cavs return to action Sunday at Philadelphia. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

• Mavs point guard Darren Collison: “This was really big. Despite Cleveland’s record, they are still a really good team. It came down to whoever made the right decisions was going to win.”

• Gibson has scored in double figures in four of his last five games. See? There is a positive to the Cavs’ bench.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO