Cavs learning hard way that mailing it in never works

November 20, 2013

CLEVELAND -- Something isn't right with these Cavaliers, and it's something that no coach can fix.

It's up to the Cavs. And right now, that proposition looks shaky, with latest example coming in a 98-91 loss to Washington on Wednesday at The Q.

For way too much of the first three quarters, the Cavs refused to defend or move the ball or rebound or do anything that resembled playing the right way.

Other than that, things were great.

At least, they were if you think a 27-point deficit against a team that is still finding itself is a good time.

There's no reason for this misery. The Cavs are more talented than this. They have a very good player in Kyrie Irving. They have talent around him in Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Jarrett Jack.

But without effort, real effort that it takes to win in this league on a nightly basis, the Cavs are nothing more than basketball mush.

For three quarters, that is what they delivered.

In the final quarter, it was a whole lot of Irving (28 points, six assists). That's no way to win. And guess what? The Cavs didn't win a game they basically had to have.

Following a game at improved New Orleans on Friday, they face last year's Finalists in consecutive contests. They're at San Antonio on Saturday then face defending champion Miami on Wednesday.

Good luck getting things figured out with that in store, kids.

But let's stick to today, because that's really all matters for now.

And what happened Wednesday is inexcusable.

"We don't play hard enough," Jack said. "It's the effort. It's the one thing you can control."

Jack wasn't finished.

"At the end of the day, we're supposed to love this and it's supposed to be our job," he said. "If we don't come out here and do our job, this is the result we'll get."

Jack didn't excuse himself from any of this. He sort of lollygagged like the rest at the beginning, too.

But now that everyone seems to have a firm grasp of what's going wrong (and it's been wrong all season), maybe the Cavs can stop just saying the right thing and go out and play the right way.

Although it's awful hard to believe they'll do it. What evidence do we have to support the idea that they might?

What even makes this even more discouraging is other than Irving's fourth quarter, the two guys who looked to be in a rhythm and busting their behinds Wednesday were two end-of-the-bench guys. That would be center Henry Sims and especially guard Matthew Dellavedova.

Neither of these guys was drafted. Sims spent some time with New Orleans last season, but played two games. And up until about a month ago, we had no idea if Dellavedova would even make the team. A lot of people thought he shouldn't.

But in the previous two games against the Wizards, Dellavadova was basically all the Cavs had. He kept the ball moving. He irritated the living bejeezus out of Wizards guard Bradley Beal. He played like every opportunity was worth a million bucks.

Eventually, it rubbed off the guys with the bigger names and better all-around games.

But that's not something the Cavs (4-8) should be banking on for motivation and energy. They should all want to play hard and win and like Dellavedova. They shouldn't need an undrafted rookie to show them the way.

"I gotta find guys that are going to give it to me," Brown said. "It's as simple as that. We get paid great money to play the game the right way and we didn't compete."

It sounds so simple, but for the Cavs, it's obviously so difficult.

And if they don't dig deep, man up and find some resolve, they can expect more nights like this -- and eventually, a fan base that cares as little as they do today.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO