Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Cavaliers “took a step backwards” in loss to Nets

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What you missed around the NBA while you were re-living the highlights of Garry Shandling’s career….

1) Cavaliers look lost on defense, fade in fourth quarter, lose to Nets 104-95.
At this point in the season, coaches of playoff teams are looking for their squads to start getting into that mindset — focusing on the details, bringing energy every night, taking every opponent seriously and not coasting for a quarter (let alone a game). The reality is in late March we tend to still see a lot of mental vacation nights from teams where their focus is elsewhere.

Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers in Brooklyn Thursday. From the start, they were throwing lazy passes that got picked off (seven first quarter turnovers) and having ugly defensive lapses. Brooklyn was getting buckets from Brook Lopez (22 points on the night) and a balanced attack behind him with four other Nets in double figures. LeBron James was not the problem — he was 7-of-7 shooting in the first half, 13-of-16 for the game dropping 30 points — but the rest of the Cavaliers shot 35.6 percent on the night. Kyrie Irving was 6-of-22 and Kevin Love 5-of-14. Cleveland made a third quarter push to take the lead briefly, but in the fourth looked like a team on a back-to-back and scored just 12 points in the fourth. The loss isn’t going to cost the Cavs the top seed (they are still two games up on the Raptors) but they didn’t look like a contender. LeBron put it this way:

2) J.J. Redick knocks down game winner to beat Portland. As a whole the game felt like it was played in mud (both teams on the second night of a back-to-back), but when it mattered first Jamal Crawford stepped up for the Clippers — he hit the game-tying three, was fantastic in the second half, and finished with 25 points. Then with the game on the line, it was Chris Paul to J.J. Redick (after the game C.J. McCollum owned up to Redick being his man and he said he lost him).

3) Knicks sweep home and home from Bulls. Chicago may be the nine seed in the East and be on the outside looking in at the playoffs as you read this, but the theory goes their schedule is easier down the stretch than Detroit’s, so the Bulls can climb back into this thing. But not if they play like this — the Knicks just swept a home-and-home from the Bulls, winning in Madison Square Garden Thursday 106-94. Derrick Rose dunked for the Bulls, and outside of that there is nothing good to report. Fivethiryeight.com now says the Pistons have a 61 percent chance to make the playoffs, the Wizards (still a game back of Chicago but with a soft schedule) are at 30 percent, and the Bulls are just 13 percent (all that adds up to more than 100 percent because there is a four percent chance the Pacers fade out of the picture from the seven seed).

The Bulls’ front office has a lot of work to do this summer.

4) Knicks’ Jose Calderon finds Derrick Williams for a three-quarter court alley-oop. When things are going right for the Knicks, they are going right.

5) Back to Nets/Cavs: Watch Donald Sloan‘s behind-the-back move drop Matthew Dellavedova to the ground. It was just that kind of night for the Cavaliers’ defense.