It was the third quarter, and the Cavs came out flat and disinterested. Tyronn Lue called a timeout less than a minute into the half. He had seen this movie before. Before he knew it the Cavs were down by 10, on the road, to a lesser opponent. Coming off a bad loss to a hurt Memphis team, and with LeBron James openly pining over the unrequited affection of Joe Johnson while possibly subtweeting his star point guard, the situation wasn't great.
But last night, the Cavs' issues had less to do with energy. The team, from my vantage point, seemed pretty focused for much of the game. They were trying to get Kevin Love involved. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were having good games. Tristan Thompson was doing his damndest to keep DeMarcus Cousins discombobulated; the Kings star center took a number of ill-advised threes, was given a rescinded Flagrant 1, and received a technical. The defense was uneven, as it's been for a long time now. But in the fourth quarter the team stepped it up and a loose ball found its way into Kyrie Irving's hands. He launched the ball upcourt to a cherry-picking LeBron.
Defense, leading to offense. What a concept. But for much of the night, shots simply weren't falling. With two minutes left in the game, Kevin Love was just 1-7 from three point range. The team as a whole ended up 13-44 from distance. A few more of those go in, and it's not a tight game late. But they didn't, and it was. And it might have provided a catalyst for the team to grow and perhaps turn a mental corner.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Love missed a three and it wasn't close. He short-armed it and it barely grazed the front of the rim. The Cavs, though, got the offensive rebound, and Irving reset the play. Here's what transpired next:
Sacramento announcers: "Love is 3-12. Double everyone else and leave him open."— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) March 10, 2016
Kevin Love: pic.twitter.com/EzLw9Loc3q
It was a genuinely fun moment. Kevin needed it. The fans needed to see the players supporting their teammates. The hope would be that the team can build on the effort, and realize that the players need each other. They have big goals. The Warriors and Spurs are not messing around. If the Cavs want to be on that level, they need to elevate their game. Perhaps last night was but a moment, and more tweets and frustrating third quarters are on the horizon.
But perhaps this is the start of something else. Something fun.