CLEVELAND — Cavaliers coach Mike Brown vows to keep pushing buttons until he finds something that works. If that doesn’t happen fairly soon, it might be time to press the one marked “Panic.”
The Cavs suffered another bad loss Friday at Quicken Loans Arena, falling 86-80 to the Al Jefferson-less Charlotte Bobcats in front of 18,679 dismayed fans.
In what was projected to be a breakthrough season on the North Coast, Cleveland (3-7) finds itself a four-point opening-night win over Brooklyn, a missed 3-pointer by Minnesota’s Kevin Love and a double-overtime home victory over Philadelphia from being 0-10.
“We can’t play a 30-minute game or a 35-minute game,” Brown said. “You have to play a 48-minute game or you’re going to get beat in this league no matter who you play.”
The Cavs were without Dion Waiters (illness), who will also miss tonight’s game in Washington, and Andrew Bynum (family matter). Kyrie Irving wore a protective mask to protect his broken nose, while Earl Clark started for Alonzo Gee in the team’s revolving door of mediocre small forwards.
Brown also gave legitimate minutes to rookie Sergey Karasev for the first time, but the 20-year-old did absolutely nothing other than miss three shots and commit a turnover.
Clark, who had 15 points and went 6-for-7 from the field, was the Cavs’ best offensive player against the Bobcats (5-4), which is a strong hint of how badly the rest of the team performed.
Irving had 18 points and 10 assists but went 5-for-16 from the field, committed six turnovers and frequently ground what little offense his team had to a halt with his constant dribbling.
“Right now, it’s about continuing to get extra shots and finding my rhythm,” said Irving, who is shooting .380 from the field. “I would be frustrated if I wasn’t getting the shots I wanted.
“Offensively, it’s not going well,” he added. “I’m going to continue to fight for my teammates and continue to try to make plays.”
Irving made several key turnovers down the stretch, when he was hounded by Kemba Walker, but also scored 10 of his team’s 22 points in the final period.
“I need to see more ball movement from him and everybody else,” Brown said. “It’s something we preach.”
Tristan Thompson added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavs, but was just 6-for-15 from the field. C.J. Miles, who started for Waiters, had eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and one assist in 33 minutes.
Despite all those putrid numbers, this was a game the Cavs could have won, because Charlotte was just as bad — and sometimes worse — except for a stretch that lasted from the middle of the third period to the middle of the fourth.
“We just didn’t play with any sense of urgency at all,” Brown said of that span. “Defensively, we didn’t do anything we were supposed to do.”
Down 53-41, the Bobcats, who entered the game next-to-last in the league in scoring (Cleveland was 27th out of 30), went on a 37-14 spurt. That means Charlotte scored just four less points in 12 minutes than it did in the first 30 minutes.
“You’ve got to have your hands up and be ready to throw punches back,” Thompson said. “It didn’t happen tonight.”
Brown opting to go with a lineup of Jarrett Jack, Miles, Gee, Henry Sims and Tyler Zeller to start the fourth period didn’t help.
The coach came to his senses just 1:11 into the period and reinserted Irving and Thompson, but the Cavs, who had their best defensive half of the season in taking a 37-33 lead at intermission, never recovered.
“We can’t become complacent with the lead,” Irving said. “We stopped being aggressive and kind of got away from the things that got us the lead.”
Charlotte won on a night when Walker (4-for-19), Gerald Henderson (4-for-13) and Josh McRoberts (4-for-12) went a combined 12-for-44. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.