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Final Score: Cavs fall 106-101 vs. Pistons for third straight loss

J.R. Smith’s return did not go as planned.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the Cleveland Cavaliers means confronting what you really think matters. Does energy matter? Does continuity matter? Does this particular game matter? Does anything in this world matter?

They should, all of them. The Cavs are a force of contradictions, one minute looking dominant and the next looking like they’ve never played together before. Before the game discussing energy, at some moments having none. Speaking of plans, playing without one.

This night, of course, was no different. After leading multiple times, the Cavaliers ceded a hot 4th quarter to the Pistons and were not able to regain control.

Why? Why after a dominating 20-2 run to go up 27-12 did it all fall apart? The reasons, like the Cavaliers, are all over the place. How did the Cavs lose when LeBron posts a magnificent 29-13-10 triple double, and Kyrie Irving is electric pouring in 27?

  • The Cavs are experimenting again. Sure it’s mostly necessity, but the Cavs are shifting into groups that have no idea what they’re doing. Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving units have been a week-long test. Tonight, J.R. Smith was added back to the mix, and Derrick Williams was thrown in with them. Their complete inexperience together (0 minutes, obviously) showed. In the fourth quarter, the Pistons went from trailing to in control with a 13-0 run on that unit. Offensively and Defensively it was a disjointed mess. The hope -hope- is that more time together will fix that. Certainly it will fix J.R., who was as rusty as could be.
  • On that theme, the Cavs best lineup in a 9-2 February is no longer being used. Tonight it wasn’t possible, because Kyle Korver was sitting with a foot injury. Still, the acquisition of Deron Williams has killed the Korver, LeBron, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Williams, Channing Frye “Jumbo” lineup which posted ridiculous numbers in a smallish sample. Is it gone for good, or just put aside for now?
  • One of the things that lineup did was help mitigate the loss of Kevin Love by using size all over the court and shooting threats to generate easy buckets. Sometimes you don’t really notice it. Other times you do. When Andre Drummond is in the paint, you do! Tristan Thompson does a lot of things well, but he isn’t scoring much around a guy like Drummond.
  • Channing Frye had a big game because Drummond isn’t going to go out that far on him, and it’s no surprise that the LeBron-Frye-Jefferson trio was a big plus tonight. Eventually though, poor Frye is just over-exposed. Late in this one his.... struggles.... rebounding were costly. It’s not his fault, it’s not what he’s here for. Tonight was a night that theoretical Andrew Bogut might have helped.
  • Overcoming all of that requires the one thing these Cavs are rarely willing to put forth: 48 minutes of all out effort. The 10 or so possessions a game the Cavs mail in end up biting them when the margins are trimmed up this much. When every other team is still treating a random Thursday like Game 7.

This. THIS is where the Cavs challenge you. When they leave you sitting on your couch wondering what actually matters. I should be annoyed by this game, but they consistently prove regular season concerns trivial come April, May, and June. I should wonder what the hell Ty Lue is doing with these rotations, but what would I do with so many new players in a small window? The Cavs have so routinely blown off regular season responsibilities that getting annoyed by them in these circumstances has almost become gauche.

We will spend six months of my life closely following a team that may or may not care on any given night, at any given minute. When they do, it’s spectacular. When they don’t the whole things falls apart. When we get mad, well, they eventually leave our fears invalid. Arguing that the regular season is just one big practice and shouldn’t matter is supposed to be stupid, and yet.... here I am wondering if this is just that. Wondering what I actually believe about games like these.

ANYWAY, The Cavs play in Orlando on Saturday. We’ll see you then.