CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers didn’t pass the blame at all, but when it mattered most, they didn’t pass the basketball too much, either.
Cleveland’s offense fell totally apart in overtime, when it made just one field goal and scored five points while committing three turnovers. Not surprisingly, that resulted in a 108-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors in front of 19,384 fans Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Think about the pass, think about the pass, think about the pass, think about the pass,” coach Mike Brown said without naming names. “I’m going to keep preaching that message: Pass the ball, compete and have fun.”
The Cavs (10-20) have lost their last three games by a combined nine points, including a 127-125 defeat to Atlanta in double overtime Friday at The Q.
But since close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, Cleveland finds itself with a season-high five-game losing streak and seven losses in its last eight games.
“We feel like we’re close,” Brown said. “We feel like we’re right there.”
“We’ve just got to close out the game better,” added point guard Kyrie Irving, who had 27 points and nine assists but missed all three of his shots while going scoreless in OT. “That’s what it boils down to.”
One of the reasons the Cavs haven’t been able to close out games is their offense slows to a snail’s pass at key moments.
Dion Waiters, who went 3-for-15 from the field and committed five turnovers, was partly to blame against Golden State, as was Jarrett Jack on occasion. But more often than not, the ball was in the hands of Irving, as it usually is.
To Irving’s credit, he pump-faked Klay Thompson off his feet and calmly drained a 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 99.
Golden State’s Steph Curry (29 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists, 5 turnovers) missed a floater at the buzzer and the game went into OT, where Irving and the Cavs struggled mightily at the offensive end.
“At the end of ballgames, we forget about our pace and we slow down a little too much,” Brown said. “We’ve got to keep our pace.”
Twice in the last two minutes, Irving drove into the lane, was confronted by multiple defenders and had his shot swatted.
“He’s got a ton of belief in himself,” Brown said. “When he does drive, he makes great plays throughout the course of the game. Sometimes, especially late in games, when he does get in there, referees may let a little more (contact) go.”
Beyond that, opposing teams are beginning to learn that as great as Irving is offensively, he rarely kicks the ball out when defenses collapse on him in pivotal moments of the game. Until the 21-year-old starts doing so, more and more teams will converge on him once he gets in the paint.
“He’s got to make a decision on whether he wants to finish it or kick it,” Brown said. “That’s something he’s conscious of and that he’s going to continue to get better at as time goes on.”
The second time Irving got his shot blocked, Draymond Green (5 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) got a dunk in transition to put the Warriors (19-13), who were beginning a seven-game, 13-day road trip, up for good.
Jack (12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) then missed a step-back jumper, but Tristan Thompson (17 points, 12 rebounds) got the offensive board for the Cavs, only to have Waiters completely brick a long jumper.
Curry, who was 1-for-11 from the field after intermission to that point, then nailed a 23-footer to give the Warriors a four-point lead with 13.5 seconds to go in OT.
After getting the ball poked out of bounds with 7.1 seconds remaining, the Cavs closed the game by throwing it away completely on the ensuing inbounds play.
“All the losses bother our guys and bother them the right way,” Brown said. “We just have to stay after it, and we will.”
The Cavs led 64-55 at intermission — it was their highest-scoring half of the season — but they should have been up more.
Cleveland led 64-47 after a Jack 3-pointer with 1:13 to go in the second quarter, but the Warriors scored eight unanswered points in the last 53.9 seconds to trim their deficit to nine.
“Any time you have a lead and it’s cut like that, especially at the end of a quarter, it’s tough to deal with,” said Brown, who pointed out the Cavs were 28th in the league at net efficiency in the closing minutes of a quarter.
Curry was sensational in the opening two quarters, hitting 8-of-11 shots — he was 5-for-5 from long range — while scoring 24 points.
Golden State made its first seven shots of the game, but the Cavs picked up their defense and went on an offensive tear of their own, resulting in a 23-4 run that put them up 30-18 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
Golden State coach Mark Jackson praised Jack, who averaged 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists while playing 29.7 minutes a game for the Warriors last season.
“He’s an incredible, incredible man and a great leader and a tremendous voice on a team,” Jackson said. “I’m awfully proud of him for signing the big deal.”
The 30-year-old Jack, who entered Sunday averaging 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists while playing 27.2 minutes a game for the Cavs, signed a four-year, $25.2 million deal with Cleveland in the offseason.
The only things left in the locker of Cavs center Andrew Bynum, who was suspended Saturday, were a jar of Skippy peanut butter, nearly a full loaf of whole grain bread, headphones, earplugs, shower sandals and a protective vest.
Asked about the team’s next step with Bynum, who will almost certainly be traded or released by Jan. 7, Brown said, “My focus is on the guys in the locker room and trying to win the next ballgame.”
- The struggling Waiters played 39 minutes, including the final 24:36, while starting shooting guard C.J. Miles, who had 17 points, played only 23.
- Golden State’s Thompson defended Irving much of the night, with Curry guarding Miles, Jack or Waiters, depending on who was in the game. At the other end, Irving defended Curry for most of the evening.
- The Cavs made 10-of-16 3-pointers compared to 10-of-33 for the Warriors, but were outrebounded 52-44 and outscored 48-24 in the paint.
- Thompson had 16 points for Golden State, but was just 5-for-16 from the field, including 3-for-12 from beyond the arc.