Cavs staggered by blowout loss


Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND — Cleveland’s locker room finally opened nearly 25 minutes after a seismic loss to the NBA champions. David Blatt turned right and headed down the hallway.

“Coach on the move,” a security officer said into his walkie-talkie.

Blatt stopped in a side room to field questions.

He didn’t have all the answers.

Following a 34-point “beat down” (Blatt’s term) courtesy of the Golden State Warriors, Blatt, spent his postgame news conference addressing issues surrounding his team — some new, some recurring.

The Cavs were gutted by the Warriors, who put up 70 points in the first half of their first game in Cleveland since winning the title in June and might have dropped 170 had interim coach Luke Walton kept his starters on the floor in the fourth quarter. Cleveland offered zero resistance to the league’s top team. The Cavs looked unprepared and unmotivated.

“We never gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Blatt, who survived a bumpy first season as Cleveland’s coach. “We’ve got to face up to that and use that as a new starting point to improve ourselves.”

Yes, this was just one of 82 games. But this was no ordinary loss.

At one point, the Cavs trailed by 43, the biggest deficit star LeBron James has faced in more than 1,100 career games as a pro. James and his teammates were powerless to stop Stephen Curry & Co., who unleashed their entire offensive cache on a stunned Cleveland team and crowd.

Following the game, James didn’t offer excuses. That’s not his style — never has been, never will be. He talked about “getting back to basics” and then pointed out that the Warriors, who have won five straight over Cleveland and are 38-4 overall, are on a different level.

“Their resume speaks for itself,” James said. “They got experience and they got high basketball IQ and they got guys who are just sharp mentally at all times. We’re not at that point yet.”

With owner Dan Gilbert sitting courtside, there were other troubling aspects to Cleveland’s loss, among them:

—Why were the Cavs so flat for perhaps their biggest game to date?

—What’s going on with Kevin Love, again searching to fit in offensively and a defensive liability?

—And what about J.R. Smith? He arrived less than 50 minutes before the opening tip and then got ejected from another important game for bad behavior.

Blatt accepted partial blame for his team’s shockingly lackluster effort, their “lack of mental preparation” and not having “answers at either end.” But Blatt can do only so much, and at least against the Warriors, the Cavs seemed disconnected.

They had a healthy Love and Kyrie Irving, but the pair shot a combined 4 of 16 and scored 11 points — five fewer than Curry poured in during the first quarter. Love struggled on defense, which is nothing new, but he was also a complete nonfactor with the ball, scoring 3 points in 21 minutes.

Curry scored 35 points in 28 minutes. Cleveland’s Big 3 — James, Irving and Love — had 27.

Love’s shot isn’t falling and his role appears to be shrinking. He has scored over 20 points just once in his last 13 games. His inclusion in Cleveland’s offense — and his relationship with James — were major topics last season, and Love, who signed a five-year, $113 million contract last summer, isn’t sure of his exact role now.

“I really don’t know how to answer that,” he said late Monday night.

A moment later, Love said all the Cavs need to step up.

“We got beat up on our home floor,” he said. “I think a lot of things went wrong, lot of things that we need to clean up in our preparation, but I think they’re the better team right now. We definitely have a lot of things to get better at and that’s going to take a lot of guys looking at themselves in the mirror and it all starts with our leader over there and trickles on down.”

By “our leader,” Love meant James, who as he dressed, spent several minutes speaking with assistant coach Tyronn Lue.

Before the locker room cleared out, James tried to put a positive spin on a brutal night.

“We’re going to have a lot of bumps, and that’s OK,” he said. “We’ll learn from it and we’ll get better from it, but the best teacher in life is experience and it’s good to go through it.”

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