June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Cavs: Brown is disgusted with lack of competitive spirit

CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers continue to outdo themselves.

Two days after an epic collapse against the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland lost 100-89 Tuesday to a New Orleans Pelicans team that isn’t very good to begin with and was minus three of its top six scorers.

That left the don’t-get-it Cavs with a 1-4 record on their season-high five-game homestand, and 13,985 fans at Quicken Loans Arena let them hear about it.

New Orleans Anthony Davis shoots over Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson in the first quarter. (AP PHOTO)

New Orleans Anthony Davis shoots over Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson in the first quarter. (AP PHOTO)

It also dropped the Cavs to 16-29 overall as they prepare for road games in New York, Houston and Dallas.

“Our competitive spirit is nonexistent,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “I wish I had the answer. Maybe I need to shake things up.”

What perplexed Brown most was the change in a little more than a day, as he noted the Cavs had a highly competitive practice Monday that almost resulted in “three or four fights.”

“Our energy level was off the charts,” he said of the workout. “I didn’t see one time tonight where one of us got upset, hit somebody, showed some fire.”

A game between two of the league’s bottom-feeders was as notable for who didn’t play as for who did.

Anderson Varejao (hyperextended knee) missed his first game of the season for the Cavs, but the Pelicans (19-25) were in much worse shape. They were minus Ryan Anderson (herniated disc), Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in leg) and Jason Smith (torn knee cartilage).

It didn’t matter to New Orleans.

The Pelicans shot a sizzling 60.7 percent from the field over the first three periods and, after leading by as many as 22 points, took an 83-65 lead into the fourth.

The Cavs got as close as 11, but the outcome was never seriously in doubt.

“We don’t play hard in spurts,” Brown said. “When we don’t play hard in spurts, it equates to losses.”

New Orleans second-year power forward Anthony Davis had his way with the Cavs, putting up 30 points on 12-for-18 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and eight blocks. The Pelicans also got 20 points, seven rebounds and nine assists from shooting guard Eric Gordon.

The most promising thing to come out of this game for the Cavs was the play of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who overcame a horrendous first half to post career highs in points (15) and minutes played (31) while tying a career high with eight rebounds. Bennett, who played the last 20:42, was 5-for-10 from the field overall, 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and 3-for-6 at the line.

“You’ve got to stay ready when your number is called,” Brown said. “He was ready tonight.”

Kyrie Irving had 23 points and five assists for the Cavs, Dion Waiters added 21 points and Tyler Zeller, who played only 3 minutes in the second half, tied his season high with 13 points and added 10 boards while starting in place of Varejao.

“What we had out there wasn’t good enough,” Brown said when asked about Zeller’s benching early in the second half. “That’s why I made the change.”

Henry Sims, who played 12 minutes while Zeller sat, had two points on 1-for-5 shooting and one rebound, but some of the starters were even worse.

Luol Deng (6 points on 3-for-10 shooting in 31 minutes), Tristan Thompson (5 points on 2-for-10 shooting in 32 minutes) and C.J. Miles (2 points on 1-for-2 shooting in 12 minutes) were virtual no-shows for the Cavs.

“What we’re watching out there, what we’re seeing, is unacceptable,” Brown said. “It’s not good enough.”

Up 12 at halftime, New Orleans finished a 41-15 spurt to take an 81-59 lead with 2:51 to go in the third period as boos rained down from everywhere in the arena.

The Pelicans, who shot .590 from the field in the first half (23-for-39), closed the second quarter on a 16-0 run to take a 56-44 lead at intermission.

The Cavs did not trail until the 4:33 mark of the second period, but shot a horrendous 5-for-20 overall in that quarter, when Davis blocked almost as many shots (4) as Cleveland made.

One game after going 2-for-22 in a six-point third period against Phoenix, the Cavs did not score over the final 5:25 of the first half vs. the Pelicans, missing their last nine shots of the second period and also committing three turnovers in that span.

Bennett played 10:34 in the first half and had two points on 1-for-4 shooting, no rebounds, no assists, two fouls and a turnover. He had no points, rebounds or assists in his first 9 minutes on the floor.

The Cavs did have some positives, as Zeller had 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 18 first-half minutes and Waiters had 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.