CLEVELAND, Ohio – All around The Q Sunday afternoon, fans whipped rally towels with the Cleveland Cavaliers wine color splotched on them.
Perhaps that was because they had trampled out the vintage where the grapes of the good years were stored. Maybe that’s not going to be this playoff year.
The Cavs’ “Whatever It Takes” motto was on each towel. Clearly, it is going to take far more than that which produced a 98-80 defeat to the Indiana Pacers in the opener of the teams’ first-round series. It was the first loss James’ Cavs have suffered in the first round after 12 straight wins in previous seasons.
Bad start for the new guys
In particular, whatever that stumbling first quarter could be called – and pro basketball just wasn’t the term for it — there can be no more 33-14 deficits at the quarter-pole.
Other than Larry Nance Jr. with 10 points, the new Cavs (Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill) were non-factors. All but Hill are playoff neophytes.
Veteran Jeff Green failed to score on his seven shots, nabbed only four rebounds and put up a plus/minus of negative 15 points, meaning the Cavs were outscored by that much while he was playing 26 minutes for some inscrutable reason.
LeBron James wasted a triple-double (24-10-12) in a lopsided defeat in which the Cavs never led, trailing from 5-4 on.
The Pacers sportingly missed 10 of their 25 free throws. The Cavs missed eight of their own 20. Behold: The gangs that couldn’t shoot straight.
First quarter follies
Among other curiosities, James tried his first shot with 1:52 left and the Cavs down 15 points. He was fouled on it. His next shot was blocked.
The Cavs ended the quarter trailing by 19. He scored two points.
The Cavs insisted on trying to hit long fly pattern passes to James that had approximately the same success rate as that of DeShone Kizer with the Browns.
Kevin Love took only eight shots as the offense’s second option, scoring only nine points, but he at least was a board monster with 17 rebounds.
Hill airballed a six-footer in the lane and threw an alley-oop pass to James on a 2-on-1 fast break that stayed in the arena, but that was the best that could be said for it.
Spin moves the only highlights
After that the main interests were:
First noting that that alley-oopsy thing was contagious, as the Pacers’ Bojan Bogdanovic threw one that made unwary fans in the first few rows consider wearing helmets.
Second, the Lance Stephenson-James mutual animosity and trash talk festival flared again. They were a variation on an old spring time favorite here after DeShawn Stevenson, obviously no relation, was James’ personal bop bag in the playoffs a decade ago.
James laid two straight whirl-a-gig moves on Stephenson, scoring on layups in the second quarter, which left the Lancer looking like he had emerged after prolonged captivity in a Maytag that had been set on the spin cycle.
James had his say to Stephenson after the second one, but Stephenson was effective with 12 points and five boards in 17 minutes.
Finally, James missed his third straight free throw in the last 64 seconds of the half, then walked down the lane to the padded basket stanchion and head-butted it.
Imagine how the towel-wavers felt.