CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers got a 119-112 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night, but that was not good enough.
The wine and gold rediscovered their missing 3-point shooting touch with a 16-for-38 night from deep in the win. The issue was that the winless Bulls were even better from deep at 17-for-33, as the Cavalier defense continues to struggle.
Head Coach Tyronn Lue did not even let media get a question in post-game before criticizing his defense.
“Just defensively, we’ve got to get better,” he said. “We play teams like this that move around a lot, playing hard, younger guys; we’ve got to do a better job respecting these guys. Until we do, we’re going to get off to slow starts, we’re going to be in dogfights every single night. We can’t continue to start games the way we’ve been starting them.”
Lue’s particular issue was with the 17-triple night as young Bulls marksmen like rookie Lauri Markkanen raised up with confidence instead of putting the ball on the floor. The latter is an emphasis for Lue, and something he lamented specifically with the rookie, especially after Markkanen dropped 18 on the Cavs during the pre-season.
For a stretch in the 3rd quarter, the Cavalier defense was anything but, forcing back-to-back shot clock violations four minutes into the second half. Cleveland took their first lead of the game at 74-72 with 8:50 left in the 3rd, but found themselves trailing after three.
Lue said the halftime film confirmed what he had seen in the first half: the Cavaliers had been slow on defense and were not paying attention to detail.
“I thought we flew around a lot better in the third quarter,” he added. “Then we got up and kind of let our foot off the gas again, they made some shots again, then we had to crank it back up. We’ve got to have a better defensive mindset from start to finish.”
The blame defensively was mostly on the mental side, though Kevin Love said it was physical as well. The All-Star forward believed the team lacked energy, as they did in a loss to the Magic on Saturday.
“We weren’t locked into what we were doing defensively, but that was just a product of us not coming out to play right from the jump,” Love said. “They’re a team that, a lot like Orlando, if you give them a lot of confidence, they have guys that can shoot the ball, make the extra play. We allowed them to do that tonight, and you’ve got to give credit, they came out ready to play.”
Love also mentioned the likely key to their struggles on both sides of the ball, the fact that the evolving lineups have not had much time to jell. The idea has plenty of merit, but unless the focus and energy become prevalent, the chemistry will come slowly.
Former Cavalier bit players Justin Holiday and Kay Felder combined for 38 points on 13-for-28 shooting.