The Cleveland Cavaliers had the chance Friday night to go two games up on the Boston Celtics with three to play, and all they had to do was beat an Atlanta team resting Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder, plus Kent Bazemore was out with an injury.
Instead, Cleveland had one of their sloppiest losses of the season. They seemed disinterested in the game and fell 114-100.
Here’s what a frustrated coach Tyronn Lue said after the game, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
One Cavs source told ESPN it was the “most embarrassing loss of the season by a lot.” Another told ESPN, “I saw it coming,” when he got wind of the Hawks sitting their marquee guys. Yet another told ESPN of the Cavs’ up-and-down nature, “I don’t get it. I don’t f—ing get it.”…
“Just stupid, man,” said Lue, who compared the loss to others in the past when the Cavs fell flat against undermanned opponents (Memphis last season; New Orleans this season). “It’s tough because as a coach you’re searching and trying to get the right guys out there to bring some energy. Guys have been playing 38 and 39 minutes, and Bron, you know, he seems to have the energy every single night. A lot of times guys are not picking that up. Tonight is where we needed guys to pick up the energy and pick up the slack. We just didn’t do it.”
The playoffs should focus the Cavaliers and solve the effort questions.
The bigger concern might be the knee of Kyrie Irving — he sat out the second half of the game due to pain in his knee.
“After halftime my left knee just started kind of flaring up,” said Irving, who finished with 18 points and seven assists. “[Thursday] just was a terrible day for me and my knee. … It was just one of those days. Guys that have had knee surgery before understand that. It was one of those days. I just did my best all of yesterday just trying to recover and do everything possible. So I had a great chance of playing at a high level, and then after halftime it just f—ing flared up. Excuse my language, sorry.”
The Cavaliers need to get him some nights off to get that knee right, they don’t want it to be something chronic that bothers him through the postseason and slows him when it matters. Of course, it would be a lot easier to do that with more of a cushion over the Celtics.
I still don’t think the Cavaliers are in real trouble in the Eastern Conference, so long as they get their focus back and stay healthy. No need to reach for the panic button. But games like this might make Cavs fans want to locate where the button is, just in case.