CLEVELAND — Because they couldn’t make shots, the Cavaliers had no shot Sunday night against the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena.
A downright offensive performance on offense led to a 96-83 loss in front of 17,238 fans, who saw their team lose its second straight after a six-game winning streak.
The Cavs (22-35), who were playing without Anderson Varejao (back), Dion Waiters (knee) and C.J. Miles (ankle), scored 31 points in the second half, when they went 9-for-35 from the field (.257).
“It’s like we played in an elevator,” coach Mike Brown said. “It wasn’t crisp.”
The Cavs were at their worst in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-for-19 shooting (.211).
Kyrie Irving, who had 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting, five rebounds and five assists, was 0-for-5 in a two-point fourth quarter. The third-year guard is 9-for-33 from the field over the last two games.
“Whatever it takes to get a win, I’ve got to do,” he said. “Going forward, when we’re in droughts like that, I’ve just got to take over.”
Irving had a lot of company in the poor shooting department against the Wizards (28-28), but he and backcourt partner Jarrett Jack stood out because they were the guys dribbling the ball multiple times on multiple possessions while basically running no offense.
Jack had six points on 3-for-11 shooting. He missed his last six shots and did not score over the final 35:02 of the game.
Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) finished 4-for-13 from the floor and Matthew Dellavedova was 1-for-5, meaning those two players, Irving and Jack combined to go 14-for-46.
“In the second half, the ball wasn’t moving the way it was in the first half,” Brown said. “It was our inconsistencies, as well as Washington’s defense, that caused us not to score.”
That’s fairly elementary. The bigger question is, “Why did the ball stop moving?”
The Cavs had 52 points in the first half — they gave up 58 — and Spencer Hawes (16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) already had 13 points. He played 19 minutes in the second half and scored three points.
The guards’ domination of the ball and inability — or unwillingness — to reverse it had a lot to do with Cleveland’s struggles, as did a 2-for-18 performance from behind the arc for the night.
“We’ll survive,” Brown said. “We just have to be consistent.”
The Wizards, who got 21 points and nine assists from John Wall, 17 points from Bradley Beal, 15 points and 10 rebounds from Trevor Ariza and 13 points and 13 boards from Marcin Gortat, weren’t exactly a well-oiled machine after intermission.
Washington scored 38 points in the second half and lost power forward Nene to a sprained knee midway through the third quarter — he is scheduled to get an MRI today — but led throughout the final two periods because the Cavs never put anything together.
“That was one of our better 48 minutes defensively,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
It was also one of the Cavs’ worst 24-minute stretches offensively, and Irving didn’t dispute that.
“There are so many things we have to figure out — new pieces, guys missing — but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” he said. “We just have to go out there and play basketball.
“Time is of the essence right now, especially when we want to do something special. We only have (25) games left to do it. There just needs to be a better sense of urgency, including from myself.”
The loss dropped the Cavs five games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn played at the Los Angeles Lakers late Sunday, so if the Nets lost, Cleveland would be 4½ out (Brooklyn began the night tied with idle Atlanta for the seventh and eighth spots).
“Each game for us means something,” Brown said. “You check the standings every once in a while, but the only thing we can control is what’s in front of us.”
Toronto comes to town Tuesday and the Cavs play in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, so it doesn’t get any easier, especially with Waiters expected to miss a few more games and the availability of Varejao and Miles uncertain.
“We miss them,” Brown said. “That’s part of the NBA. We have to have guys step up and take advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given.”