INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach Byron Scott is ticked off about his team’s poor play in the third quarter, but he’s not sure his players are.
“We come out soft,” he said Monday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “We come out on our heels and we wait to see what (the opposition) does first instead of being the aggressor.
“When you come out that way, normally teams are going to throw the first punch. If you’re not reacting to it, you’re going to get beat. That’s what has been happening. We come out with a soft mentality. If you do that in this league, you’re going to get caught. … You’ve got to man up. It’s as simple as that. You’ve got to man up.”
In the third quarter of their last four games, the Cavs have been outscored 111-69. They lost three of those games, the one win coming when they somehow beat the Utah Jazz, after which Scott opened his postgame press conference by saying “Merry Christmas to us.”
Without naming names, now injured point guard Kyrie Irving said some players were out for themselves following a 100-96 loss Sunday in Toronto, where the Cavs led by as many as 17 points.
Scott didn’t go quite that far, but he made it clear to his players after the game and again at practice Monday that he is not happy with the recent trend — or their mental approach.
“It has to definitely change and it has to change quickly,” he said. “It’s just a young team still learning and understanding that you’ve got to play 48 minutes in this league. It’s just that simple.
“We come out and sometimes we play 24 very solid minutes. We go out in the third quarter and play 12 bad minutes and they catch up with us.”
Prior to losing Irving, Scott had already changed his substitution pattern a bit — he took Irving out first instead of rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters in Toronto — but the result was the same.
Beyond that, the veteran coach is of the opinion the problem stems more from a lack of focus and aggressiveness than who is or isn’t in the game.
“They get out there and they don’t believe this team is going to come out and go at them,” Scott said. “That’s what teams do in the NBA.”
Worse, Scott said, the Cavs don’t hit back.
“Every now and then you’ve got to throw a few punches as well,” he said. “Not literally, but you’ve got to go right back at them. We’re on our heels for the most part in the third quarter and then we’re down.
“Then all of a sudden we start playing again. We don’t have the luxury of trying to turn on that light switch. … We don’t have that type of talent yet.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.