LeBron James scored 10 seconds into the Cavaliers’ game against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night. On the Pacers’ first possession, the Cavaliers’ defensive effort was there, but Indiana was able to make a tough shot. That seemed to be the theme of the night.
“They made tough shots.” That was the sentiment James, Jeff Green, Kevin Love and coach Ty Lue all shared in their post-game interviews. As was the team sustaining an effective defensive effort throughout the game.
“A lot of our possessions were well-guarded, they just made them (the shots),” James said after the game.
Defense has been the Cavs’ primary issue so far this season, and Lue has said in the past that it’s been a focal point in practices, but no one seems to know, or so they say, why things aren’t falling into place just yet. James suggested the team get in better shape and be more aware and mindful of what’s happening on the floor.
“There’s a lot of things you could do,” James said.
Inaddition to their defensive woes, the Cavaliers, were having a tough time handling the basketball, racking up 12 turnovers in the first half.
“We did some good things early, but we’ve got to be able to sustain,” Lue told reporters in the post-game presser. “We’ve got to do a better job taking care of the basketball … we did some good things, just wasn’t able to sustain it for the whole game, 48 minutes.”
James contributed 33 points, making him the youngest player to reach 400 games where he’s scored 30 points or more, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. The King did his best to elevate his team in the final minutes, but it just wasn’t enough.
The team finished with 16 turnovers, half of which were at the fault of James.
“Some of my turnovers are (me) trying to make the right play and … it just not working out. Obviously, you know, eight (turnovers) for myself, that’s way too many,” James said. “I take full responsibility for all our turnovers tonight because it starts with me.”
Strong setups, poor finishes
The Cavs have prided themselves in being one of the best teams in the league in regards to ball movement, and with a point guard like James who seems to have eyes everywhere, it’s easy to see why that’s the case. Nevertheless, there have been plenty of times when the Cavs get open looks and set up possession with beautiful passes for it all to be wasted on a subpar shot.
Tonight wasn’t any different. Love and J.R. Smith both had a few moments when they were set up for a three, a token shot of theirs, and had it not fall in. No one is expected to make every shot, but when everything is orchestrated just right, it’s frustrating when the most important part doesn’t fall into place.
“For the most part, we were in the right place … for the most part we executed, they (the Pacers) still hit some bombs right in our face and some rotations we had and things of that nature, sometimes the ball just didn’t bounce our way,” James said.
Lue shared similar thoughts, saying that in previous games, his team was getting its butt kicked, whereas tonight he saw some good things, they just didn’t last through the duration of the game.
“I’m seeing improvement, we’ve just got to keep plugging, keep working, coaches, players, everybody and just continue to try to keep getting better,” Lue said.
Cavs kept their heads up
Despitewhat’s been going on; the Cavs seemed to be in better spirits tonight coming off their fourth loss in five games. It was evident they didn’t defeat themselves regarding their attitude, which can play a big role in how the outcome of a game can be decided. That being said, just because the players weren’t hanging their heads and getting as visibly frustrated, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done better or played harder.
Clearly, seeing that they lost.
“We have an opportunity to be very good, but then you see some of the lulls that we have, you know, it’s just very difficult on our team right now,” James said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to fly, and unfortunately, we just don’t have time to practice a lot and do those things … Our team is kind of depleted as well.”
The depletion James mentioned refers to the inactive players on the Cavs’ roster including Iman Shumpert and new member Isaiah Thomas, as well as the recent loss of Tristan Thompson. Double T went down in the second quarter with a reported left calf strain after grabbing seven boards. It’s unknown when Thompson will return or if an MRI will be needed to assess the injury.
The dreaded defense
“A lot of teams are playing well right now, and we’re not. It’s a simple fact.”
James couldn’t have said it any better.
That’s just the predicament the Cavaliers have found themselves in, but as Green said, he’d rather have it happen now than later on in April.
It’s clear the Cavs are trying. They were aggressive out of the gate, especially Green and Derrick Rose (the Cavs’ third and second leading scorers tonight, respectively, with 15 and 19 points), but that word “sustainability” keeps coming up. Cleveland got the juices flowing about midway through the second quarter following a Flagrant I foul call on Pacer Lance Stephenson after he hit James below the belt. The Cavs, who were down by nine, exploded into an 11-0 run which brought them within one going into halftime.
Spurts like that were what kept Cleveland in the game, but those “bomb shots” from Indiana were just too hot for the Cavs to handle.
“There were shots where we felt like we contested, had the proper coverage and you know, we were right there,” Love said. “We gave ourselves a chance; we just couldn’t get there at the end.”