Dribbles: Cavs Set Early In Loss To Suns, Doomed By Listless First Half

Random NBA dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 122-101 road loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. …Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. The Cavs had one good stretch — when they started the third quarter 8-of-8 from the field. The rest of the night was forgettable.

2. Worse, they looked totally lifeless for the entire first half. It was blowout city. In fact, it got so bad that they drew some strong criticism from former Cavs center Kendrick Perkins on the ESPN halftime show.

3. Perkins on the Cavs: “I’m always looking at body language. … I don’t see no type of joy, no type of spirit, no type of effort. And it’s a shame when you’re talking about a team that’s third in the Eastern Conference, a young team. They’re supposed to want to do something and make some noise.”

4. Perkins threw in that the Cavs “look like they don’t like each other.” That may be how they looked, but that part isn’t true. The rest of what he said was accurate, at least when it came to the first two quarters.

5. Donovan Mitchell came out ultra-aggressive in the third. Most of the Cavs did, actually. They cut a massive deficit to 11. Then Darius Garland missed a couple of layups, a jumper, and committed a turnover. That ended the run.

6. I’m not picking on Garland. I’m just offering a recap of events. And man, he needs to get it together. Not sure why he’s so out of sorts these days. But it’s hurting the team.

7. Yes, the Cavs were playing the second night of a road back-to-back. Maybe that’s why they looked so defeated in the first quarter. Maybe not, too. Maybe they lacked energy … just because. But the Suns had 72 points at the half. Seventy-two.

8. Mostly, the Suns couldn’t miss. When Bol Bol is out there hitting 3-pointers, well, you know it’s gonna be a long night.

9. But no matter how you spin it, the Cavs are 10-14 since the NBA All-Star break. Fortunately for them, Milwaukee and New York don’t look that great, either. The Bucks lost on back-to-back nights to lowly Washington and almost-as-lowy Memphis.

10. On the downside, Orlando won at New Orleans and now trails the Cavs (46-31) by just a half-game for third in the Eastern Conference.

11. That’s all beside the point, though. I doubt any of this is decided until the last week of the NBA season, perhaps the last day. That’s just a little more than a week, by the way.

12. Mitchell played his buns off after sitting out Tuesday’s win at Utah. He finished with 24 points against the Suns and just exerted a great deal of energy for all 38 of his minutes.

13. For the second straight night, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley scored the same amount of points, each finishing with 20. Mobley also had nine rebounds and five assists. Still, they were at times overmatched against a large Suns frontcourt that occasionally consisted of Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic and Bol.

14. Devin Booker was again unstoppable for the Suns (45-31), erupting for 40 points. Durant thwarted every Cavs run, just as he did in Cleveland, scoring 32. It’s the first time since November that each Booker and Durant scored more than 30 in the same game.

15. Garland finished with 15 points and eight assists. But again, not his night. Max Strus recorded nine points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Caris LeVert added all of the Cavs’ 11 points off the bench other than a pair of Sam Merrill free throws. The rest of the bench scored zero.

16. I was a little surprised coach J.B. Bickerstaff opted to use the starters for so long. Georges Niang only played 11 minutes. Merrill played five. Marcus Morris played four. Tristan Thompson didn’t get in until garbage time.

17. Bickerstaff to NBA reporters: “Defensively, things were too easy for them. They were getting to their spots and creating the shots they were looking for. I thought our guys adjusted well in the second half and continued to fight.”

18. Can’t really argue with any of that.

19. Somehow, the Cavs are still in third in the East, yes. But two toughies are coming up as they close out the regular season on the road against the Lakers (on Saturday) and Clippers (Sunday). After that, it’s three straight at home.

20. Where will they finish? If I had to predict, I’d say right where they are — third. That would pit them against the Miami Heat in the first round. Yeah, no thanks. Anyway, we can worry about that later. First, let’s see what the Cavs can do to feel better about themselves when it means the most.

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