Cavaliers Need New Focus

As the Cleveland Cavaliers walked off of the hardwood and entered the locker room with looks of defeat painted on their faces, you could tell Saturday’s game wasn’t just another loss.

Any loss is hard to take. The stigma attached to the Cavs’ loss to the Portland Trailblazers this weekend, however, is harder to accept. This defeat comes with further blows to the team’s disheartening season; it is a piece of history that will weigh heavily on the players for quite some time because records like these are hard to beat.

Sounds dramatic? A bit exaggerated, perhaps? Not really. If you are not a sports fan, or even a Cavaliers fan, then you may not find this information upsetting, and you probably won’t understand why it is such a big deal.

If you have been graciously standing by your home team even after they’ve won just eight games this year, then I feel your pain. This recent twist of the knife hurts.

The record for the longest losing streak during a single season in NBA history was bestowed upon the Cavaliers after their unfortunate 24th straight defeat, 111-105 against Portland. Still not earth-shattering news for you? Let’s look at it this way: the Cavs won 61 games last year, and lost just 21. As of now, they’ve lost 43 games this season. It’s pretty crazy to think about.

Coach Byron Scott, however, seems to have his focus in the right place.

“As far as the record, I couldn’t care less about the record,” said Scott. “I care about our guys progressing and getting better as basketball players and as a basketball team.”

The last few games, including the Saturday loss at home, have been so close that the Cavaliers could just taste the wins on the tip of their tongue. In the box scores, however, there’s a thick line between almost winning and actually closing out a basketball game.

“Anytime you start losing close games, it’s always a little mental,” Scott said, knowing what the Cavaliers are going through. In the 1995-96 NBA season, Scott played on the first year expansion team Vancouver Grizzlies. He was part of a 23-game losing streak himself. “Mentally, it starts to wear on you a little bit until you can get over the hump.”

By the half, the wine and gold led 57-55, and there’s no doubt that the Cavs’ offense had hit it’s stride. Antawn Jamison had 17 points while young talents Christian Eyenga and Manny Harris had 12 points apiece. Four other Cavaliers scored in double digits.

Lazy perimeter defense overshadowed all of the Cavs’ hard work, allowing the Blazers to shoot 12 of 19 from the arc. Let’s just say the ‘three’ dismantled any chance of hope that the Cavs had of breaking their cursed losing streak.

Andre Miller was given the space to hit a dagger three pointer with over a minute left after the Cavs trailed by just two points. With a chance to inch their way back up the scoreboard, J.J. Hickson (11 points, six rebounds) didn’t catch a vital pass, and even though it somehow landed in the hands of Ramon Sessions (15 points, seven assists), he couldn’t finish to the basket with an open, left-handed lay-up.

“We just have to keep playing that hard and when it comes down to the last four or five minutes, we just have to believe that we are going to win the game,” explained Scott. “We made some careless turnovers and we missed some easy shots.” Coach still has faith in his team, and knows that a win for the Cavaliers is in their near future.

“The last week or so, as hard as we have been playing, I told the guys it’s not a matter of if we’re going to win, it’s a matter of when.”

Daniel Gibson, who finished with 12 points and nine assists after being out with a quad injury for three games, had similar feelings. He says the team cannot be worried about whatever records they are unfortunately breaking.

“The thing about it for us is just winning the next game. You can’t think about how many we have lost to this point. You can’t. You just have to go out there focused,” said Gibson. He continued that the team has to use their mistakes to improve in the next game. “That has to be our focus, it can’t be anywhere else.”