CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Cavaliers suffered their worst loss of the season Friday night.
On a night in which the Golden State Warriors sat out Steve Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson, the Cavs had the opportunity to start their home weekend on a solid footing.
Instead, they did the exact opposite.
“We didn’t respect the game,” said coach JB Bickerstaff. “Quite simply. They’ve got heroes out there, and we thought some of those guys were out, so we’re going to take it seriously, and we got what we deserved.”
Cleveland lost to the Warriors 120-114, losing their second straight game. They still finished fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-19 record.
Bickerstaff noticed this disrespect from the start of the game. The Warriors scored 15 points in the first four minutes of the game, and the Cavs gave up seven points in the first quarter. They were late to the screens and did not help each other. The Cavs trailed the Warriors by as much as 20 points in the third quarter and struggled to dig themselves out of that hole all night.
Carris LeVert said their defense was the most troubling aspect of Friday’s game. For a team that prides itself on the defensive end of the floor — and coming into the game and having the second-best defensive ranking in the league — the Cavs struggled on defense all night. The Cavs especially couldn’t protect the entire perimeter of the game. The Warriors defeated 23 3s throughout the game. Sixty-nine of the Warriors’ 120 points came from behind the perimeter. Evan Mobley said they struggled to shut down their 3-point attempts with strength.
“If you’re not going to respect them, they’re going to make you pay,” Bickerstaff said. “And we came out of the gate soft and irreverent, and they were out there shooting warm shots with no competition, no challenges, no one in their space, and they gave us what we deserved.”
Cleveland has suffered huge losses this season. They lost to the Clippers on November 7 after losing a 13-point lead in the final five minutes on the second night of a back-to-back game. Then the loss happened in Sacramento two days later. and a loss to Milwaukee on November 16, which ultimately led to a starting lineup change, which saw LeVert off the bench in favor of Lamar Stevens.
Then there was the loss in San Antonio on December 12th. Loss to Utah on the night of Donovan Mitchell’s seven-point comeback on January 10th. Jan. 14, even a loss to Memphis on Wednesday stung for the level of intensity they played, only to see the game slip away in the final minutes.
However, Friday’s loss could be considered the worst of the season because Golden State lost four out of five, as well as Andre Iguodala and James Wiseman. It should also serve as a learning moment for this group as they work their way through the second half of the season and work towards making the playoffs.
“We didn’t play our best, we didn’t play hard,” said Darius Garland.
Heading into Friday night’s game, Bickerstaff spoke of human nature and the potential for disappointment, but also of the importance of continuing to play at their level. They had to go out and “be professional about it.”
The Cavs have been on the other side of these types of games where they miss key players, but then some bench players can get a chance and run with it. LeVert parlayed his win in Detroit on November 4 this way, when they were without their backcourts starting with Garland and Mitchell.
But the Cleveland team didn’t do that on Friday.
“I don’t think we answered the bell tonight,” LeVert said.
The Cavs locker room was relatively quiet after the game. There was no music playing. There was a collective feeling that they understood the position they had put themselves in to lose this type of game.
After the game, LeVert wasn’t sure if this kind of loss would require a players meeting to address. The Cavs take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, giving the Cavs a chance to put this loss behind them. Levert believes it is important in this situation that they stay together. However, Garland said they have to look at themselves in the mirror and watch the film to learn from their mistakes.
Kevin Love said he also views this loss as a teaching point. He understands that these types of toys can come back to bite him. However, he doesn’t think they need to grow up as a group; They have to ask themselves who they are trying to be as a team. He said they have created a healthy culture in Cleveland and developed the youth who are at the heart of this team. They know that winning sometimes requires them to win ugly, lock out in a few minutes or win in overtime.
But there is also an understanding that there are some games they need to win because of the situation. Friday night was one of those games.
Love said: “You have to respect your opponent.” “You have to play to your standards, and our standards, every night. I felt like tonight was a huge disappointment. The beauty of it is we have another game in 24 hours so hopefully we can bounce back from this. It’s not lost that tonight was a huge disappointment.”
(Top photo of Cavaliers guard Carris LeVert drives against Warriors forward Jonathan Cuminga: Ron Schwanee/AP)