Posted on February 4, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The Cleveland Cavaliers had an opportunity Saturday night. They could put another dreadful January behind them with a win over one of the best teams in the league, the Houston Rockets. Nothing makes a statement quite like beating a contender. But to beat the Rockets, the Cavaliers would have to be dialed in and focused. They would have to bring their ‘A’ game—something they haven’t seen in weeks.
What they brought was far from an ‘A’ game.
The Cavaliers appeared listless and disconnected at times throughout the game and fell easily to the Rockets 120-88. LeBron James made it pretty clear how he felt about his team and its performance after the game (ESPN):
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“They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season. We haven’t played good at all, and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I’m at a loss for words.”
Since Christmas Day’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers are 0-8 in nationally televised games. To make matters worse, many of them were blowouts. Four of them were by 24 points or more.
“Don’t look like [we tried]. We didn’t have no fight,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game (ESPN). “I just think our mindset needs to change. I think we need to do things harder.”
Houston didn’t appear to have to try really hard. They led by 12 after the first, 32-20, and extended the lead to 26 by the time the first half mercifully came to an end, 65-39. Cleveland gave a better effort in the third quarter. But the Rockets still managed to extend the lead to 28 points, 97-69.
Both teams looked more interested in simply closing the game out in the fourth quarter than anything else. But while much of the basketball-loving free world has written the Cavaliers off, Rockets guard Chris Paul refuses to do so (ESPN):
“You got LeBron James over there in that locker room,” he said. “What else does the man need to do? I’m a little biased, but what else does he need to do? If you all don’t believe in him, you’re all trippin’.”
Isaiah Thomas and J.R. Smith led the Cavalier with 12 points each followed by James with 11 points (3-10 from the floor). Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade chipped in ten off the bench.
Chris Paul led the way for the Rockets with 22 points and 11 assists followed by Ryan Anderson with 21 points. James Harden chipped in 16 points and struggled from the floor (5-16; 1-11 from three-point range).
Cleveland’s next chance to right the ship will come Tuesday night in Orlando when they take on the Magic. Houston will try to keep the momentum going when they head to Brooklyn to face the Nets Tuesday night.
The obvious question when it comes to the Cavaliers is not whether they need to make a trade. Why haven’t they fired Tyronn Lue? Plenty of more experienced head coaches have been fired mid-season from contending teams that were playing better than the Cavs are.
But for some reason, the Cavs are sticking with their guy.
“We are not firing our head coach,” one Cavaliers official told ESPN late Saturday night.
Part of the issue could be that the team doesn’t feel like anyone on staff could do any better or that bringing in someone from the outside will help. But if they don’t do something, their season is in danger of ending much sooner than they want.