Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. led the Cavaliers in assists on Wednesday night. The two primary centers. Nope, that’s not a typo. They each had four.
Starting point guard George Hill had zero. Backup lead guard Collin Sexton had one.
As a team, the Cavs had just 18 against the Nets. And on the season, Cleveland ranks just 25th in assist percentage. (52.8).
Now, it takes a team making shots to pile up assists so the numbers require some perspective, especially on a night when the Cavs were adding enough bricks to renovate Quicken Loans Arena even more.
Cleveland shot 34-of-89 (38.2 percent) from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range. Perhaps Hill and Sexton had some should-have-been-helpers. But these low assist numbers can’t continue.
The Cavs’ assist leader through four games? It’s a tie between Nance and Cedi Osman. They both are averaging 4.0. Kevin Love is next, averaging 3.5.
The Cavs miss LeBron James. Duh.
They miss his leadership. They miss the confidence that stems from playing alongside him — a widespread belief that no deficit is too great, no challenge is too tough. They miss his on-court voice, directing traffic on the defensive end and teaching from the bench.
Most of all, the Cavs miss his shot creation.
A roster lacking playmakers, the Cavs have to work extremely hard on the offensive end to generate quality looks. Some players have looked frustrated, just settling for what’s ever easiest on a given possession. That’s a nasty habit. The overall shot selection reflects that. So, too, does the vanishing of Kevin Love during the second half in the 16-point loss against the Nets.
Love attempted two shots after halftime. No one could get him the ball. When the Cavs tried, Brooklyn loaded up and forced Cleveland to tur elsewhere. That’s what happens without a great passer, one capable of squeezing the ball into a tight area, the way in which James could.
“I don’t even think it was really that I passed too many up,” Love said. “I was trying to make the right play, trying to get guys involved. But plain and simple, the shots didn’t really present themselves. Couple of them, especially that last 3 at the end, kind of threw it up to get myself going and get my wind up.
“But I need to find ways to get more shots and get the ball in better spots and try to find ways out of double teams to set guys up. It’s going to take all of us, not just me.”