The bad start of this season continues for the Cleveland Cavaliers, losing to the Utah Jazz 102-100 on a Gordon Hayward buzzer beater, with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving trying too hard to win on their own instead of finally making this ambitious new project look like a team.
A lot of fingers and criticisms are being pointed at David Blatt. A head coach with plenty of experience and titles in Europe and international basketball, but he has as much experience in the NBA as Dante Exum coming off the bench for the Jazz. Just like Exum, there’s a good chance that it’s going to be a while before he finished adjusting to something that’s a lot bigger and more difficult than he’s ever done before.
This wasn’t the apathetic, flat performance the Cavaliers put on in Portland. However, this wasn’t a smart one from the Cavs, who continue to play like it’s each man on his own, trying to save the world. Kyrie Irving scored 34 points but didn’t have a single assist. LeBron James scored 31 points and added four assists. The ball doesn’t move. The feet on defense might be starting to pick up, especially with Shawn Marion getting more minutes, and yet the Cavaliers look like a team that has no idea on how to make it all work.
Kevin Love scored 14 points on a terrible 2-of-10 from the field. He made up for it from the line. Still, all that talent, all that intelligence on the floor amounted to only six assists. Only 20% of the field goals came off assists, the lowest for any NBA team since a Charlotte Hornets performance in 2010. It certainly isn’t something you expect from a team that has LeBron James on the floor, but right now his influence isn’t doing what it should.
The Jazz played with fire, and got away with being aggressive on defense. Gordon Hayward got two big blocks on James, including a crucial one before James tied the game at 100-100 with three free throws. James slipped on the final possession, losing his man and attempt to double up on Hayward, who moved to the right and pulled up for a big three pointer over the stretching Tristan Thompson, nailing it and giving the Jazz their second win of the season.
Hayward and Derrick Favors each had 21 points, and the Cavaliers continue to have a problem underneath the basket, with Enes Kanter scoring 18 points. The transition and perimeter defense is being lazy for the Cavs, something you wouldn’t expect considering who is playing on this team. The Jazz finished with 46 points in the paint, including a lot of too-easy dunks, even from the likes of Hayward and Trevor Booker.
One thing that might make Cleveland Cavaliers fans a bit less tense about their 1-3 start: Losing in Utah is something of a tradition for LeBron James. It happened quite a lot with the Miami Heat and even on their bad years, the Jazz are simply tough to beat at home. But that’s probably the only things Cavs fans can feel happy about, as their team just looks like a bunch of players put together under a head coach that knows nothing about NBA basketball. The results have come accordingly.