Two years in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers' annual trip to Sacramento goes horribly.
After a 124-80 shellacking last season at Sleep Train Arena, the Cavs had another horrific night tonight, losing to the Sacramento Kings 103-84.
The Kings used the combination of a red-hot shooting performance coupled with an ice cold Cavs second half to get the win. The Kings shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 11-16 from midrange, in order to build a 59-44 first half lead. They also only had one turnover in the first half, and four total for the game, and while the regressed shooting in the second half, the damage was already done, because the Cavs' offense died after a strong first quarter.
The Cavs shot 42.3 percent from the field for the game, and posted just 40 points in an ice-cold second half. This was partly due to the Kings clamping down and playing effective defense in the interior, but was mainly on the Cavs themselves, as the team just seemed to default to letting Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving isolate and having that be the main offensive gameplan. That didn't go well, as it made things far to predictable and easy for the Kings to defend.
Kevin Love led the Cavs with 25 points on 10-21 shooting, and added 10 rebounds and three assists to that total. He did most of his damage in the post, but did take nine threes, hitting just three of them. He was pretty ineffective if he wasn't working on the low block, and even then, when DeMarcus Cousins was on him, he really seemed to struggle.
Kyrie Irving also got his fair share of shots, and was similarly productive in the first half with a second half swoon. He had 21 on 7-18 shooting, and did add four rebounds and seven assists. However, it did seem that as the Kings started pulling away, we saw Kyrie shift into the mode he has gotten in every time the Cavs get down, it seems; he started trying to take guys off the dribble, play one-on-five, and force things from outside too much.
Once again the biggest problem seemed to be Love and Irving trying to do things themselves and not incorporate their teammates offensively. Timofey Mozgov did get 14 points and 12 rebounds, which was good; however, the rest of the team combine to post 24 points on 31 shots. J.R. Smith had a cold shooting night, Tristan Thompson's finishing struggles continued, and Mike Miller and James Jones continued their mission of only shooting when they are wide open, combining to take just four shots. So much for the spacing threat.
Defensively, there was a lot of criticism of the team's effort on twitter, but the Kings were pretty hot in the first half. The Kings got a ton of midrange jumpers to fall, and that spaced the Cavs' defense out, as the post players had to worry about DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, and even Derrick Williams making tons of shots from outside. Cousins had a monster all-around night with 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks. He roasted Mozgov on the defensive end, pulling him away from the basket with jumpers and then using the newly created space to bull his way to the basket. He was basically unguardable, as was Rudy Gay, who had 23 points by murdering J.R.
Right now, though, I'm a lot more concerned with the offensive play than I am the defense. I put more of the defensive problems on the Kings simply making the shots the Cavs were giving them, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when they're allowing a ton of midrange shots while keeping the Kings off the line (17 free throw attempts) and holding them to just six made threes. That's not the worst thing in the world, just an unfortunate night to face a team that was hot at home.
Offensively, the Cavs' play was really bad. Things were sluggish, Irving and Love didn't seem to want to keep their teammates involved, and when they did, those teammates struggled. One thing that I did think of tonight is that Love and Irving have spent most of their careers being the entire offense for their teams. Love was the only consistent shooter on the T'Wolves for three seasons, and we all know the Cavs' problems offensively under Byron Scott and Mike Brown. It makes me wonder if these two just have it ingrained in their heads that they have to do it all themselves when their teams get down, because that's mostly what their experiences have been so far in the league. I think a lot of the reason we see Kevin Love firing contested threes and Kyrie try to go one-on-five is just because they are in the habit of that being their experience so far in the league, and without LeBron, they think that has to be the case again.
If that's true, then the Cavs need LeBron James, Shawn Marion, and Iman Shumpert to get healthy as soon as possible. The Cavs have the makings of what seems like it could be a very good offense if they're healthy, and they haven't been totally healthy in weeks. Otherwise, this is what we're going to continue to see: Love and Kyrie continuing to try to play heroball while the supporting cast contributes nothing in their limited touches. That's my best explanation for why this losing streak has unfolded the way it has. It sucks, but that's what we're stuck with until LeBron's healthy.
Speaking of, it's possible LeBron comes back Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns:
LeBron James (knee) will not play Sunday, but has an outside shot of playing Tuesday against the Suns. http://t.co/ummZsa6SL9— RotoWire (@RotoWire) January 11, 2015
Let's hope so.