Cavaliers still looking for first win as they host Nets
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Various Cleveland Cavaliers were able to cope with their second loss of the season when they made it competitive at the end of an eight-point loss in Minnesota.
Two nights later as the Cavaliers fell to 0-3, the reactions were starkly different as the first week of the second post-LeBron James resulted in an ugly 133-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in their home opener.
"Today we took two steps back," center Tristan Thompson told reporters.
The winless Cavaliers hope to start making some progress in the wins department when they host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers are 0-3 for the first time since 2004-05 when James was in his second season. They are trying to avoid their first 0-4 start since losing the first five games in 2003-04.
Among the things the Cavaliers are hoping to improve is their defense, which is now allowing 126.7 points per game to go along with a defensive rating of 122.4. Those numbers increased after the Cavaliers allowed 40 points in the second quarter and the Hawks to shoot 49 percent and make 22 3-pointers.
"The last three quarters were pretty damn alarming," Love told reporters after the Cavaliers set a team record for 3-pointers allowed. "Opening Night at home we expect to play better. We expect to play better in front of our home crowd. I don't know if alarming is the right word but it sure sounds right, just with our effort level. Our effort level wasn't there, especially defending the 3-point line. They were just gunning and we weren't getting into them, we weren't physical."
Love finished with 16 points for his second game under 20 points so far as he missed seven of eight 3-pointers. Cedi Osman finished 12 but was 5-of-15 and committed five turnovers and rookie Collin Sexton was held to four points on 2-of-11 shooting.
The Cavaliers are also hoping to fix their performances on both ends in second quarters. So far, they are getting outscored 111-72 in the second quarter as opponents are shooting 51.9 percent (40-of-77) while their offense is shooting at 40.9 percent (27-of-66).
According to coach Tyronn Lue, Cleveland's numerous problems stem from poor communication. On Tuesday at practice he told reporters those who don't communicate defensively will get taken out.
"Either got to talk or they've got to come and sit down," Lue said before adding he wasn't discouraged with the early results.
The Nets barely allowed over 100 points in splitting their first games by losing at Detroit and beating New York but they are coming off a horrid defensive showing Saturday in Indiana. In a 132-112 loss, the Nets allowed 14 3-pointers and the Pacers to shoot 55.4 percent.
"They were a step faster than us. We were a step behind. No excuses," said coach Kenny Atkinson, who saw his team commit 20 turnovers and allowed 130 points for the ninth time since he took the job in 2016. "We competed for a while, and then shrunk."
The point where the Nets competed was at the end of the third and into the early minutes of the fourth when they were within 99-92 but they allowed a 20-7 run and never threatened again.
"To take the next step and be one of the better teams in the league, we have to learn how to impose our will on the other team night in and night out, stick to our principles every single time," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "That's the biggest next step we have,"
Caris LeVert continued his hot start with 19 points and is averaging 24.7 points so far on 65 percent.
LeVert may be joined in the starting lineup by Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, who missed the first three games due to personal reasons. Hollis-Jefferson also is coming back from a hip injury sustained in a summer charity game in China and could be eased in slower.
"Not having him hurts your defense, so having him back should be a boost for our defense because he can guard a lot of different guys," Atkinson said after practice Monday.
Jared Dudley has been starting in place of Hollis-Jefferson. He would likely start again if the Nets opted to use Hollis-Jefferson as a reserve.
Cleveland won three of four meetings last season. The Cavaliers also have won 10 straight home meetings with the Nets since April 3, 2013.
Updated October 23, 2018