Without LeBron, it’s high time for Cavs to find some resolve
CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ snoozer of a 109-90 loss to the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Sunday:
1. While LeBron James is out, the Cavs can’t just be Kevin Love and not nearly enough of the other guys. But that was the case Sunday. Love was fantastic with 30 points, 10 rebounds and tons of hustle. No one else really did anything worth mentioning.
2. It’s true the Mavericks are a doggone good team. They’ll contend for a championship. But the Cavs (19-15) have to find some resolve regardless of who they play. LeBron or no, there wasn’t nearly enough energy Sunday. And Mavs or not, this was a bad home loss.
3. In fact, the Cavs have already lost too many games at home (eight). I understand this is an almost entirely new program — and no one probably preaches patience more than me. At some point, though, you have to make opponents fear coming into your building. Right now, that’s far from the case.
4. Cavs coach David Blatt received a large vote of support from general manager David Griffin before the game. It’s too soon to say if Blatt is doing a bang-up (or awful) job. But it appears as if he’s here to stay — or at least here for the season. He was hired before LeBron James decided to return in free agency. So this is something closer to the team Blatt would’ve inherited had LeBron stayed in Miami. We’re about to see how the Cavs respond.
5. Adding to the list of the wounded: Kyrie Irving. He missed most of the second half Sunday with a tightness in his lower back and will remain in Cleveland for Monday’s game at Philadelphia.
6. So that leaves the Cavs with no Kyrie, no LeBron, and let’s not forget, no Anderson Varejao (out for the year with a torn Achilles). See what I mean about the basketball voodoo Blatt must now perform?
7. Irving finished just 2-of-9 shooting for a season-low six points. But as Blatt pointed out, Kyrie actually hurt his back in the second half of Friday’s win at Charlotte. On Sunday, he was merely trying to give it a go. He played 25 uneven minutes.
8. Defensively, the Cavs were a considerably bigger mess against the league’s highest-scoring team. The Mavs had the Cavs running in circles and giving up way too many easy baskets, both from inside and out.
9. As Blatt said: "We didn’t play the kind of defense we needed to play against any team, certainly not Dallas."
10. Dion Waiters started 0-of-7 from the floor with a couple of air balls. He finished just 4-of-14. This isn’t to pick on Waiters. I suspect he’ll forever run hot and cold. And when he’s hot, he’s pretty good. But he sure didn’t have it on this day. Blatt needs to get more out of Waiters and Waiters needs to get more out of Waiters, too.
11. The Cavs sure could use a guy to defend the basket. The Mavs scored 44 points in the paint, and way too many came without any sort of challenge whatsoever. But while Griffin admitted he’s been working the phones, other teams haven’t been overly helpful. No one, it seems, is in any hurry to give the Cavs a decent big man.
12. Shawn Marion (13 points), Tristan Thompson (eight points, 11 rebounds) and Matthew Dellavedova (10 points, seven assists) were all solid. But it’s going to take better than solid to beat the Mavericks, and probably the 76ers, of the world.
13. I really don’t think we need to worry about the Cavs until after the All-Star break. That’s not until mid-February. But I’ll be changing that rally cry soon if they can’t find a way to gut out a few road wins without LeBron. Six of their next eight games are away from home. The two at The Q: The Rockets and Bulls. Ouch.
14. James could possibly return a week from Friday. That’s the final of a five-game West Coast swing (at the Los Angeles Clippers). On the bright side, I don’t see anyone in the East passing the Cavs for the No. 5 seed — ever. But I don’t think the fifth seed is exactly what the Cavs are aiming for.
15. Again, after the addition of Rajon Rondo, the Mavs (20-15) are a true contender. They are just so well-balanced offensively, and just generally do so many little things very well. Monta Ellis scored 20 points, and five others reached double figures: Dirk Nowitzki (15 points); Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea (14 apiece); and Richard Jefferson (11). Dallas has won six of eight and five straight.