Cavs give it a run, but another loss not the way to go
CLEVELAND — Random stuff from the Cavaliers’ 102-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday:
— Until about 6:00 remained, this was a tough one to watch. That’s probably why many of the 18,246 in attendance started heading for the exits early in the fourth quarter. The Thunder were cruising, Kevin Durant couldn’t be stopped and the Cavs had nowhere to turn. Or so we thought.
— Clearly, the Cavs were overmatched. That wasn’t supposed to be the case this season. They were supposed to be a lot closer to good things. And maybe they are. But it doesn’t feel that way as 13 games remain and the Cavs once again are highly likely to be playing meaningless basketball in a week or two.
— So make it four straight years in which fans have been cheering for … what? Kyrie Irving to return from another injury? The team to land another high draft pick? Matthew Dellavedova to become another success story out of nowhere?
— All of that probably sounds more negative that it was intended, by the way. If you like pro basketball and you live in Cleveland, you may appreciate the fact the Cavs have made some small strides in the past few months. "For the most part, our guys have fought (recently)," said coach Mike Brown. But unfortunately for the Cavs, it’s likely too late.
— Back to Dellavedova. Former general manager Chris Grant may have missed on the Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev picks, but he did find a guy who can contribute immediately in Delly. Interestingly, Dellavedova has been the Cavs’ best rookie, yet was the only one of the four (including Carrick Felix) who didn’t get drafted. He did it all on this night – from occasionally trying to defend Durant (despite giving up about eight inches) to hitting a couple of big shots on his way to 11 points to finding the open man for 10 assists. Even when the Cavs trailed by 24 in the fourth, the little guard kept right on going. "One thing Delly’s going to do for sure is fight," Brown said, and he’s right about that.
— Without Kyrie Irving (biceps) and Luol Deng (ankle) and C.J. Miles (ditto), it’s not necessarily a surprise the Cavs fell behind by a 95-71 count with 6:22 to go. The Thunder are, after all, a 50-win team with a true superstar and league MVP candidate in Durant. At that point, I just assumed the Cavs would mail it in. I think the Thunder thought that, too. Instead, the Cavs turned up the defense, and it led to some offense. That’s pretty much been Brown’s rally cry since the moment he stepped foot on a basketball court. The Cavs cut that lead to 97-92 after Dion Waiters stole an inbounds pass and drove for a layup.
— Waiters finished with 30 points, and while he took some bad shots, he needs to shoot, and a lot. Other than maybe Spencer Hawes, no one in this lineup is really capable of big nights.
— Hawes went for 20, but compiled just three rebounds, unacceptable for a 7-foot-1 center. Tristan Thompson grabbed 10 boards and Anderson Varejao had eight, but overall, the Cavs were crushed to the tune of 53-36 on the glass. Yuck.
— Most fans seem to be looking ahead to next year already. With 13 games to go and the Cavs 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot, that’s probably not a bad way to go. But keep in mind, what happens in these next three weeks will play a large role in how Cavs owner Dan Gilbert approaches the offseason. If there’s one thing that’s different about this season than the past three, it’s that the Cavs were supposed to take a noticeable step.
— Now, the Cavs (26-43) may or may not have taken a positive step, but if they have, it sure hasn’t been a noticeable one. And despite how hard they have played, at least in spurts lately, not taking a noticeable step is a problem that Gilbert will surely address.
— Durant finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and as usual, threw in a couple highlight-reel dunks and a few incredible shots from the perimeter. The Thunder (50-18) are deep and gifted – even without star point guard Russell Westbrook, who missed the game to rest his sore knee. All of that is great, but at some point, the Cavs need to offer their fans something other than a celebrity opponent to get excited about in March.