MINNEAPOLIS — Following their most lopsided loss of the season — a 127-99 defeat at the hand of the Minnesota Timberwolves — several members of the Cleveland Cavaliers were at a loss for words Monday.
“Tonight, I don’t know what tonight was,” said Kevin Love. “It was just ugly. We were getting good shots up, I think, all the way around. We got really good shots to start the game. They just didn’t fall and that kind of held true throughout the entire game, and it seemed like they hit everything. So it’s easy to say it’s just one of those nights, but in a lot of cases there’s a lot of things that we can do better.”
Cleveland trailed 20-4 to start the game and shot just 8-for-23 in the first quarter (34.8 percent), compared to 13-for-22 for Minnesota (59.1 percent). The Cavs shot especially poor from the outside, going 1-for-10 on 3-pointers in the opening frame.
It only got worse from there. The Cavs fell down by as many as 41 points, accounting for their largest deficit of the season — they trailed by 37 against the Orlando Magic en route to a 114-91 loss on Oct. 21. They finished with 14 turnovers resulting in 19 points for the Wolves, compared to just five turnovers for Minnesota.
“They put a good one on us,” said LeBron James, who scored a season-low 10 points. It was his lowest scoring total since 2007. “[We] got it to 14 at the end of the first, but we didn’t get any closer than that.”
James logged the worst plus-minus of his 15-year career, registering a minus-39 in 27 minutes in the 1,101st game he has played in the NBA.
“I don’t care about no damn plus-minus,” James said. “I’ve won a game and had a bad plus-minus before, so what does that matter. I don’t give a damn about no damn plus-minus.”
Cavaliers’ Thomas ejected for hit on Wiggins
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas was ejected from Monday’s game after swinging his right arm upward at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins in the third quarter.
James cared considerably more about the Cavs’ recent struggles, as Monday’s loss dropped their record to 3-6 in their past nine games.
Asked if all the losses had anything in common, James said, “Yeah, we’re just not playing well right now.”
James, who kept his head down during his brief postgame media session rather than making eye contact with reporters as is his custom, was asked if he was still “even-keeled” after the loss. Over the weekend, James downplayed Cleveland’s recent struggles, saying, “We know who we are now, what we want to do. Sometimes even when you know, you still take some bumps along that road, that’s OK.”
What was his sentiment on the subject Monday?
“Uh, just want to get better,” James said.
James echoed the same refrain when asked if the Cavs’ offense or defense was more to blame against the Wolves.
“Uh, we just want to get better,” he repeated.
“It’s easy to say it’s just one of those nights, but in a lot of cases there’s a lot of things that we can do better,” Kevin Love said after what he described as an “ugly” loss to Minnesota. AP Photo/Jim Mone
The Cavs now have seven double-digit losses on the season out of their 14 defeats. By contrast, they have just seven double-digit wins on the season out of their 26 victories.
“It happens,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue of the blowout nature of the game. “It happens three or four times a year to a lot of teams. We’re not normally a team that gets beat like that.”
Despite three of his starters — Isaiah Thomas (0-for-7), Love (0-for-6) and JR Smith (0-for-5) — combining to shoot 0-for-18 in the first half against Minnesota, Lue said he had no lineup changes planned for Thursday’s game against the Toronto Raptors.
Instead, Lue put the blame on the Cavs’ defense, which allowed 127 points for the second straight game.
“We haven’t been able to stop [teams] as of late,” Lue said. “Defense [problem areas are] just one-on-one off the dribble, pick-and-roll has been our Achilles’ heel. And transition. They got all three tonight.”
A midseason downturn is nothing new for the Cavs. They’ve dealt with slumps each of the past three regular seasons and rallied to make the NBA Finals the past three years.
Love said Cleveland will lean on its experience to navigate its current rough patch.
“We’re a veteran team and we know what we’re capable of, and it can’t be so easy for us to get in those lulls and not try to dig ourselves out of them,” Love said. “So we got to be better.”