CLEVELAND — Random observations from the Cavaliers’ 108-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena:
1. It just wasn’t meant to be. But hey, it’s the preseason, so the fact the Cavs looked fairly human, and lost, really is beside the point.
2. The Cavs won’t make excuses, and that’s fine. I’ll do it for them. This was their third game in four nights. They just returned from Brazil before that. They played without Kevin Love and Shawn Marion (both resting). They were tired, they were flat, and they couldn’t throw or catch a simple pass. For the most part, they were ugly with a capital U. And it’s completely understandable.
3. Meanwhile, the Mavericks played their entire starting five (for the first time this preseason) after three days of nothing but practice.
4. So if you want excuses, I’m your guy. You’re welcome.
5. Cavs coach David Blatt smiled widely and said it best: "Well, I guess we’re not going 90-0." Instead, the Cavs fell to 4-1 in the preseason. I promise you won’t remember their preseason record in three weeks, and you may even forget sooner.
6. As Blatt also said, "I wasn’t raving about our 4-0 beginning and I’m not gonna cry about this one."
7. But in spite of all that, he wasn’t willing to excuse the 20 turnovers (compared to just 11 for the Mavs). "We just threw the ball all over the place," Blatt said. "That is something you really can’t recover from."
8. LeBron James took just two shots in the first half and finished with 12 points. As he told FOX Sports Ohio sideline reporter Allie Clifton after scoring 26 against Indiana on Wednesday: "I’m rounding second." In other words, like all stars everywhere, the preseason is basically for getting into shape when the real games matter.
9. Speaking of real games, this was the final one at The Q before the season-opener vs. New York. The Cavs play Chicago in Columbus on Monday, followed by the preseason finale at Memphis on Wednesday. James said he won’t play against the Grizzlies.
10. OK, now to Kyrie Irving. He returned from a sore ankle and a three-game absence, and was mostly marvelous — leading all scorers with 23 points. He was the one guy who looked generally sharp.
11. I find it interesting that the Cavs have an almost entirely new team, yet the guy who’s led them in scoring in his two games is the same guy who’s led them in scoring each of the past three years. It means nothing. I just find it interesting.
12. Blatt on Irving: "I thought he looked great. That was a real positive. The mere fact he’s out there playing the minutes that he played, and the speed that he played … Kyrie’s a special guy. Thank goodness he’s gonna be around here for a long while, because he’s special. He really is."
13. Like a lot of folks, Dion Waiters struggled mightily shooting the ball, finishing just 4-of-15 from the field (14 points). Interestingly, Waiters leads the team in attempts in the preseason. But Blatt doesn’t seem the least bit concerned with it, and you probably shouldn’t be either. It’s the preseason.
14. Blatt on Waiters: "I thought everybody was a little bit off. The shots weren’t coming from the normal spots. But you know what? We still scored 102 points."
15. Another thing media and fans seem to be blowing out of proportion: The fact the Cavs’ Big Three of LeBron, Kyrie and Love has played together just one game. Thankfully, LeBron shrugged it off, saying that’s what the regular-season is for. He’s been to five Finals and won two. He knows what he’s talking about.
14. As for the Cavs struggling against the Mavericks’ zone defense (and they did), Blatt sort of brushed that off, too. "We’re gonna play zone, but we haven’t had a chance to practice," he said. That ends soon, as the Cavs get a week with no games between the preseason finale and the start of the real thing.
15. To summarize, Blatt again put it best. "I want to tell you all these really smart things," he said, smiling. "We just didn’t have it."
16. Tristan Thompson was again fantastic and has been the real surprise of the preseason, if you ask me. (And since this is MY column, you are.) Anyway, Thompson finished with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in 29 minutes. He’s always been a good rebounder, but I know I’ve never seen him chase down the ball quite like this.
17. As for the Mavericks, watch out. Dirk Nowitzki (16 points, nine rebounds) and Monta Ellis (13 points) were already pretty good on their own. But now the Mavs have added Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson (19 points apiece), as well as defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler. That’s an experienced starting lineup, and one that will surely challenge in the West.