Sacramento Kings (18-27) 116
Cleveland Cavaliers (30-14) 112
After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss in New Orleans on Monday night, LeBron James went in on the entire Cavs organization. The money quote there was “I just hope we’re not satisfied as an organization.” That line, in particular, didn’t sit well with the Cavaliers.
Before Wednesday’s game at home against the Sacramento Kings, Cavaliers GM David Griffin publicly responded to the comments after first having a one-on-one meeting with LeBron to discuss the comments.
“The comment about the organization being complacent I think is really misguided. Organizationally, there is absolutely no lack of clarity on what our goal set is. We are here to win championships and there is no other solution, there is no other outcome that is acceptable, and there never has been. But in terms of the on-the-court complacency, I’ve seen a lot of that.”
So things are going great! Following Griffin’s comments, the Cavaliers went out and laid yet another egg on the court in losing 116-112 in overtime to a Kings team that was ten games under .500. We’ll get to the numbers in a minute and look at some of the ways this game was lost, but realistically, the game was won by the Cavaliers several times. More than once it felt inevitable that the Cavaliers were on their way to a win. And every time they did something bad, whether it be to give up an easy, uncontested basket entirely too easily or missing a free throw that could have put the game away or committing a sloppy turnover.
Basically, any way you pick to lose a game, the Cavs probably did it in this one. To some degree, you have to credit Sacramento. The Kings refused to go away and when they had good, open looks, they took advantage and made their shots. In other words, they did what the Cavaliers couldn’t. And make no mistake, the Cavaliers had some really good shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. They simply couldn’t capitalize and they couldn’t get a key stop down the stretch when they needed one.
There’s probably a lot more that could be said about a game like this, but sometimes it’s better to just wait 24 hours and let the frustration cool down. Cleveland has lost an unthinkable six of their last eight games. It makes no sense considering the talent on this team and what they have accomplished, but frankly, the defense and offense both just haven’t been good enough. The Cavaliers have held opponents under 100 points just twice now in their last 20 games. They’ve turned the ball over 15 or more times in seven of their last 11 games.
It seems like one thing just keeps compounding on top of another for the Cavaliers. This team has a lot of work to do. And no point guard or playmaker is going to change the reasons why the team lost this game. The front office probably does still need to work on acquiring some help, but the players who are here need to snap out of this funk as well. There’s plenty of accountability and responsibility to go around.
As for the numbers, well, brace yourselves…they’re not great.
- 17 – Why did the Cavaliers lose this game? They missed 17 free throws. The Cavaliers aren’t a great FT shooting team to begin with (20th in the NBA in free throw percentage coming into this game), but there’s no excuse for shooting 50 percent on 34 free throw attempts. Kevin Love (88% on the season) was three-of-six, James Jones was two-of-five including missing all three attempts after being fouled on a three-point shot, Kay Felder was one-of-four, and Kyrie Irving missed a key free throw that could have given the Cavaliers a three-point lead before the Kings’ final possession in regulation.
- 18 – The Cavaliers missed 17 free throws and yet they were still somehow able to have more turnovers than missed free throws. LeBron had five turnovers to lead the team in that category and LeBron’s 12.5 turnover ratio on the season is easily a career-worst. This is a Cleveland team that simply isn’t showing enough focus on offense to take care of the ball and value every possession.
- -1 – LeBron had a triple-double in this game with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. It was a decent LeBron game. He was even the one bright spot at the free throw line where he made eight of 11. The problem was that LeBron was still -1 for the game in +/-. With no intention of piling on LeBron or saying this game was in any way his fault, the fact is that LeBron is not taking over games like he used to. There was a brief stretch in the third quarter where we saw the old LeBron who was willing his team to a win, scoring ten points in the third quarter alone. But down the stretch, it was too many turnovers from LeBron and not enough aggression on offense. LeBron is clearly trying to embrace his facilitator role and waiting for teammates to step up, but at some point, this team needs LeBron to just put his head down and take over a game. It’s unfair to expect that, but it’s simply where this team is right now.
- 17 (a different 17 than above) – Through three quarters, Cleveland had held DeMarcus Cousins to a respectable 11 points. It looked like the defense was coming around a bit, perhaps. Then they gave up 10 points to Cousins in the fourth quarter and another 7 in overtime for 17 points in the final 17 minutes for Cousins to power his team to victory. Is it possible that Cleveland actually has too many scorers (probably not)? In the final minutes and overtime, while Cleveland was looking for an identity and trying to figure out who was going to take the shots, Sacramento was just feeding the ball to Cousins over and over and over again, possession after possession.
- -17 (this game was brought to you by the number 17!) – So what to do with Kyle Korver? Korver played pretty well in this game it seemed. He knocked down four of his seven three-pointers for 12 points in the game to go with three assists. And yet Korver finished the game with an abysmal -17. It seems crazy that this number is so low when on the surface it felt like Korver had a fairly positive impact on the game, hitting big threes when the team needed them. But something is still not clicking with Korver in the lineup. Korver was -14 when he was on the floor with LeBron, -7 with Kyrie, and -4 with Love. When all four were on the floor at the same time, however, they were +2. It’s dangerous, of course, to read too much into lineup stats in a single game, but the point here is that Cavs coach Ty Lue is still struggling to find the best lineups to use Korver in and how to maximize Korver’s impact. Korver is still an extremely dangerous weapon in Cleveland’s arsenal and he’ll have a major part to play yet if the Cavaliers are going to repeat.
Now the Cavaliers wait until Friday to see if they can use the Brooklyn Nets to get right. A loss to the Nets and this thing will officially be spiraling out of control.