INDEPENDENCE — As soon as the Cavaliers make strides in one area, another problem crops up.
That’s why coach Byron Scott, his team having held Phoenix to 16 points in the fourth quarter of a 106-98 loss Wednesday, spent Thursday’s practice going over his team’s Princeton offense.
“If I had hair, I’d pull it out,” the bald Scott said at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Since I can use some words with them that I can’t use with (the media), that’s what I did.”
Scott also went over some plays with assistant coaches and other team personnel serving as defenders. To his surprise, some players had no recollection of one of the plays, saying the Cavs hadn’t run it in awhile.
“I had my little tantrum, I guess you could say, at the end of practice,” Scott said. “There’s just no excuse for that.”
By Scott’s estimation, “four or five guys know about 90 percent” of the offense. He didn’t name names — or say if that was limited to healthy players — but that list likely includes Antawn Jamison, Daniel Gibson and the injured Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, plus maybe Ramon Sessions, who is now starting at point guard. The rest of the team, Scott said, knows “about 50 percent” of the Princeton offense.
Even while going through plays against assistant coaches, “We still had mistakes. That shouldn’t happen.”
Until Wednesday, when the Cavs (8-33) dropped their 14th straight game and 24th in their last 25, the biggest problem had been defense, and that’s still an area of concern.
Phoenix scored 36 points in the first period, 62 in the first half and 90 through the first three periods before being held to one point over the first 5:13 of the final quarter.
The Suns made just six of 19 3-point attempts on the night, the first time in six games Cleveland’s opponent didn’t convert at least 10 times from beyond the arc. But then offensive problems popped up.
The Cavs scored just eight points in the final 6:25, with Sessions missing a layup and a number of other possessions ending in long jump shots that didn’t come close to going in.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Scott said. “On the back end of that, we missed some opportunities to have some success.”
With the Milwaukee Bucks visiting Quicken Loans Arena tonight, the Cavs may get a second chance. The Bucks are just 15-24 overall, including 6-15 on the road, and point guard Brandon Jennings (foot surgery) and swingman Carlos Delfino (concussion-like symptoms) are out.
The Cavs should also have small forwards Joey Graham, out since Dec. 17 with what he revealed Thursday was a torn tendon in his leg, and Christian Eyenga, who has missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, back in action.
“It’s been painful,” Graham said of watching his teammates lose. “That’s the worst, just sitting on the sideline knowing you can go out there and do something to help the team out.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve been lacking that defensive presence,” he added. “That’s one of the reasons they brought me here.”
Unlike Graham, who talks a much better game than he usually plays, Scott is promising no miracles, though he is eager to have the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder back in action.
“The one thing about Joey is he’s a gritty, physical player,” Scott said. “We need some of those elements right now.”
A look ahead
Given their current state, there’s no such thing as a sure win — or even a likely one — for the Cavs.
Tonight’s home game against the Bucks represents a possibility, while a Saturday game in Chicago — Cleveland has lost 19 straight road games — does not. Cleveland then plays Monday in New Jersey, where it got its last road win Nov. 9, and at Boston on Tuesday, followed by a home game against Denver on Jan. 29. The Cavs conclude the month by playing in Orlando and Miami, raising the distinct possibility they could go 0-16 in January.
If that happens, the Cavs, who were 1-14 in December and concluded November with a loss to Boston, will have dropped 21 straight games and 31 of 32.
- Though Gibson scored 16 points off the bench against the Suns after missing the previous five games with a sprained ankle, Scott plans to continue to start Manny Harris at shooting guard. “(Gibson) could care less,” Scott said. “He just wants to play. He knows he’s going to get the bulk of the minutes anyway.”
- Jamison, who banged his right knee with 3½ minutes to go against the Suns and limped off the court in the late going, sat out portions of practice, but Scott said he expects the veteran to be ready to go tonight.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.