Cavs content to stumble, instead of run, toward playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers center Spencer Hawes (32) reacts in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND — It was a big night for Zydrunas Ilgasukas and a bad night for the Cavaliers.

Honestly. It takes a miserable performance to get booed in front of a sellout crowd that came to The Q to celebrate the retirement of Big Z’s jersey.

But that’s exactly what happened Saturday, as the Cavs dropped a 107-97 killer of a decision to the New York Knicks in a game that possessed playoff implications.

That’s right, the Cavs and Knicks are still fighting for a playoff spot. Actually, the Knicks appear to be fighting for it. The Cavs just seem like they’re hoping enough else goes wrong that they just sort of stumble in.

Newsflash time: That’s not going to happen.

If the Cavs want to take that glorious next step, they’ll have to earn it. Yet no one here appears to understand how to earn much of anything. In year No. 4 of the post-LeBron James era, that’s basically unacceptable.

Speaking of LeBron, he of course was in the building to witness all this.

But the breathtaking presentation for Ilgauskas and a winning performance from good buddy Carmelo Anthony (26 points) were likely the only things to leave an impression on the King.

"He was here?" Anthony asked about James afterward. "You kidding me?"

If Anthony truly didn’t notice, it’s probably because he and the Knicks are locked in on actually stealing a playoff spot. They’ve won three in a row, and despite rumors of Phil Jackson possibly moving into the front office, have been especially focused.

The Cavs, on the other hand, are digressing when it means the most. They’ve lost seven of nine and appear to be devoid of rhyme, reason or the realization it’s past time to get busy.

Coincidentally, the Knicks and Cavs each exited the game with a record of 24-40, 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Knicks have an easy stretch approaching (which, of course, includes another game against the Cavs). The Cavs are heading out West, and considering they can’t even win in Cleveland, that could be a problem.

Plenty of questions remain about why things are the way they are. Most folks, both locally and nationally, assumed this would be the season the Cavs made a real run for the postseason — or if not a real run, at least a believable one.

Instead, the ball too often stops on offense, the energy and enthusiasm are nowhere near where they should be, and hey, so much for Mike Brown bringing something resembling defensive tenacity in his second go-round.

This isn’t all on Brown, but there’s nowhere else to place much of it.

The roster has repeatedly been revamped and the Cavs are on their second general manager of the season. Somebody has to reach the players, because outside of Kyrie Irving, there’s almost no consistency or enjoyment from anyone.

Irving (30 points, eight assists) basically has to force most everything, and for that, he cannot be blamed. Who else is going to take the shots in this dead-end of an offense? May as well be your most talented guy.

Meanwhile, Dion Waiters received just 13 minutes while Jarrett Jack stumbled and bumbled his way to 39. Again, this isn’t an indictment. But it’s probably a fair assessment when you consider the depressing state of things.

But if things don’t come together quickly, it’s major-decision time again for a franchise that’s faced way too many biggies since the likes of Z, James and several others have moved on.