CLEVELAND — LeBron James sang a different tune Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena, and it wasn’t a happy one.
After repeatedly downplaying regular-season losses for four-plus NBA seasons, the 22-year-old pulled no punches following the Cavaliers’ ugly 92-86 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“We’re not playing good basketball right now,” James said after Cleveland lost for the eighth time in nine games to fall to 10-14. “We’re not a very good team.”
From coaching to defensive rebounding, from lousy ballhandling to horrible shooting, from failing to get back on defense to James’ second-half disappearance from the offense, the Cavaliers had a lot of areas to choose from to explain their latest defeat.
“Right now, we’re reeling a little bit because of the losses we’ve had,” coach Mike Brown said. “We’ve just got to fight through it and figure out a way to get it done.”
Brown did his part against the Sixers (10-14), who won for the fifth time in their last six games, by starting a horrendous fourth-quarter lineup of Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Shannon Brown, Ira Newble and Anderson Varejao.
That group, which promptly got outscored 7-2 and finished the night a combined 6-of-24 from the field, didn’t exactly make the sellout crowd forget about James, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who were all seated on the bench.
The Cavaliers also gave up 14 offensive boards while getting outrebounded 45-39, shot 4-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter, committed 19 turnovers, allowed a whopping 35 fastbreak points and were outscored 20-9 in the six minutes James sat on the bench.
Cleveland might have been able to overcome all that, but James was unable to rescue his team down the stretch, as he’s done so many times before. The small forward made just 1 of 2 shots in the fourth period, when he had three points.
For the night, he finished with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists, but only five of his points came after intermission. The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder had one free throw attempt (he would have had two, but Gooden was called for a lane violation).
“I had four or five dribble-drives I kicked for open shots,” James said. “When two guys come to me, I’m going to kick for an open shot. That’s how it works.”
On this night, it didn’t work. Gooden was 8-of-11 from the field en route to 21 points and 10 boards, but the bricklaying performances of Hughes (1-of-9), Shannon Brown (3-of-10) and Sasha Pavlovic (2-of-9) were too much to overcome.
It didn’t help that Daniel Gibson, the team’s best perimeter shooter, missed the game due to swelling in his jaw after the removal of a wisdom tooth, but this was a game Cleveland should not have lost at home.
“We had looks,” James said. “We didn’t make looks.”
That’s been a continuing trend for most of Cleveland’s alleged shooting guards, as Pavlovic is at .351 for the season, Shannon Brown is at .348 and Hughes, who is 5-of-24 over his last two games, is back down to .353.
“The ball just did not go in,” said Mike Brown, whose team rarely threw the ball inside in the fourth quarter.
In fact, the Cavaliers were so bad offensively in the second half, when they made just 13 of 35 shots, that Philadelphia was able to win on a night when it shot an abysmal 12-of-40 after intermission.
The Sixers got 20 points and five assists from point guard Andre Miller, who sure would look good back in a Cleveland uniform, 16 points and 19 boards from center Samuel Dalembert and 20 points from small forward Andre Iguodala. Power forward Reggie Evans, who was 1-of-8 from the field, added 14 rebounds as he and Dalembert combined for 12 boards on the offensive glass.
The Sixers took the lead for good with an 8-0 run that put them up 82-75 midway through the final quarter, but the Cavaliers had a number of chances down the stretch.
The biggest sequence of the night started when James forced a terrible fadeaway from the right corner with Cleveland down two. The Sixers rebounded and quickly fed Iguodala, who streaked toward the other end and got fouled by Shannon Brown, with Gooden also getting called for goal-tending. Iguodala made the free throw and Philadelphia led 89-84 with 1:01 to go.
“We felt like we played like little girls in the last game (a home loss to Sacramento on Friday),” Evans said. “We had to bounce back. … At the end of the day, we just played like little females (against the Kings). It’s all about being determined to get a win.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
76ers 92, Cavs 86
PHILADELPHIA (92): Iguodala 6-12 6-9 20, Evans 1-8 2-2 4, Dalembert 6-9 4-6 16, Miller 7-14 6-6 20, Green 4-13 0-0 9, Korver 4-11 3-3 13, Smith 0-5 0-0 0, Williams 3-10 2-2 8, Young 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 32-83 23-28 92.
CLEVELAND (86): James 10-18 1-1 21, Gooden 8-11 5-6 21, Ilgauskas 5-11 2-2 12, Snow 1-2 0-2 2, Pavlovic 2-9 0-0 5, Hughes 1-9 7-8 9, Varejao 1-2 2-2 4, S.Brown 3-10 2-2 9, Newble 0-0 0-0 0, Da.Jones 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 32-75 19-23 86.
Philadelphia 18 33 16 25 — 92
Cleveland 26 20 22 18 — 86
3-Point Goals—Philadelphia 5-14 (Korver 2-5, Iguodala 2-5, Green 1-2, Williams 0-2), Cleveland 3-12 (Pavlovic 1-3, Da.Jones 1-3, S.Brown 1-3, James 0-1, Hughes 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Philadelphia 52 (Dalembert 19), Cleveland 51 (Gooden 10). Assists—Philadelphia 15 (Miller, Williams 5), Cleveland 23 (Snow, James 6). Total Fouls—Philadelphia 20, Cleveland 23. Technicals—Gooden. A—20,562 (20,562).
WHO: Cleveland vs. Milwaukee
WHEN: Monday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: FSN Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM