* Recap: Pelicans 123, Cavaliers 101
LeBron James has been at this long enough to know that a few hiccups early in a season is no reason for panic. Concern? Sure. But a full-blown crisis? Hardly. It’s a part of the process any team, specifically a LeBron-led team, often goes through. So he’s not ready to go crazy after a few ugly defensive performances with a significantly new cast wearing Cavaliers uniforms right now.
There’s plenty of time to figure things out, for LeBron, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and everyone else. Besides, guys are in and out of the lineup and playing rotation and perhaps the biggest offseason addition, Isaiah Thomas, won’t be ready to play until sometime after the New Year. Dave McMenamin of ESPN details LeBron’s thinking:
The Cleveland Cavaliers were beaten 123-101 by the Pelicans on Saturday night, marking their third loss in four games, but the early skid is not too concerning for LeBron James.
“I’m fine,” James said after finishing with 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds while filling in at point guard again as Derrick Rose continues to be sidelined with a sprained left ankle. “I’m fine, and we’re fine. It’s a long season. It’s way too [early to judge].”
It’s the early portion of games that have been the most problematic. The Cavs have been outscored by 44 points combined in the first quarter of their past four games, allowing their opponents to score an average of 33.8 points in the period.
James believes the trickle-down effect of Rose’s injury has thrown Cleveland’s lineups off-kilter, hurting the Cavs both defensively and offensively.
“We’re out two starting point guards,” James said of Rose and Isaiah Thomas. “So I’m not overlooking what’s going on. I wasn’t overlooking if we had success. I’m not going to overlook if we had a couple games off. I’m not getting too high and getting too low. I’m an even-keel guy. I understand this is a long process. We played some different [lineups]. Like I told you guys, we played some crazy lineups that we haven’t even played in practice. So we’ll continue to get better. There’s going to be some games where we don’t look as good unfortunately, but that’s all part of the process, and we just have to be patient with it until we can become full-strength.”
Saturday was the Cavs’ fourth straight game in which they trailed at halftime, marking their longest such streak in the past three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
With eight players added to the mix from last year’s NBA Finals team, James said the group is still adjusting to the challenge of having a target on its back every game.
“We have spurts,” James said. “Defensively, we have spurts, and we know we can get to a point where we can sustain it a little bit longer than what we’ve done so far. So that’s a positive. On the negative side, we’ve had more lulls than we’ve had spurts, and teams — we always know every year — when we have lulls, teams make us pay. It doesn’t matter what they’re shooting, it doesn’t matter how they’re playing, teams are going to make us pay, and it happened again tonight.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the defensive breakdowns are obvious. Cleveland let New Orleans make 13 3-pointers after all the open looks the team allowed Orlando, Chicago and Brooklyn take. But Lue’s team’s offense is also lagging behind.
“Well, we got to do a better job taking the one-on-one challenge, first,” Lue said. “Guys are driving us, beating us on the catch, point of entry. But, I mean, a lot of this, if we’re missing 3s and missing shots offensively and turning the basketball over, then we can’t get back in transition. So better offense helps with our defense. Because if we’re scoring, then we can get back and get set. We just got to be better.”
The Cavaliers return to the floor against the New York Knicks tonight (7 ET, NBA League Pass).