CLEVELAND, Ohio — Guess the team meeting didn’t work.
Less than 24 hours after holding a closed-door meeting to address their ongoing second-half woes, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ chances of pulling an upset against the New Orleans Pelicans were derailed by those same problems.
The Pelicans blew out the Cavs 133-98 on Saturday night.
One night earlier, Drew wanted to hear from his team. He gave them a chance to offer up solutions and a majority of players spoke freely.
On Saturday, it was Drew’s turn to send a message. He didn’t wait until postgame. It wasn’t about delivering any kind of speech or having another lengthy conversation.
His point was made at the 8:18 mark of the third quarter.
The Cavs entered the half trailing by nine points. The third quarter was their chance to show that the get-together was productive. It was also their first crack at proving the numerous issues — bad body language, a lack of trust on defense, no energy, horrible me-first offense — identified in that team meeting were indeed correctable.
Instead, the Pelicans exposed all of those bad habits and buried the Cavs in the first few minutes of the third quarter.
“To me it was kind of a familiar story,” Drew said following the loss. “I thought the start of the third quarter we were just flat. No energy, we looked slow, we just didn’t come out with a sense of urgency. We missed some shots early, but our movement was not very good.”
New Orleans opened the half on a 12-0 run, forcing Drew to yank four of his five starters. Only Larry Nance Jr. stayed in the game at that point. He likely would’ve been pulled along with Collin Sexton, Alec Burks, Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson, but the Cavs entered the game with just nine healthy bodies.
The Pelicans’ surge made it to 15 straight before the Cavs finally stopped the bleeding.
Drew vowed to do anything to reverse this nasty trend. He promised to make players earn their minutes. That bulk substitution early in the half was the first time he turned those words into action.
“I was just a little upset I couldn’t take all five out and put five new ones in there, I only had four guys on the bench,” Drew said. “The message was very simple. Those guys were not playing well. Frankly, I had seen enough at that point.”
Behind two-way player Jalen Jones, who scored 11 points in the quarter, the new group played with more bounce, diving on the floor for loose balls and approaching each possession with more purpose.
After the starters went 0-of-6 from the field with three turnovers in a scoreless three-plus minutes to open the second half, the Cavs’ reserves tallied 20 points over the final eight. By that time, the hole was too deep, the game was essentially over and fans were sprinting out of the arena. The ones that stayed until the end showered the players with boos as the buzzer sounded and they failed to reach the 100-point mark, keeping the faithful from getting free chicken nuggets.
Jordan Clarkson tallied a team-high 23 points. Sexton added 15. Jones also reached double figures, going for 15 off the bench.
Drew was anxious to see his team’s response after Friday night’s meeting. He wanted to see some second-half changes. Unfortunately for him, it was even worse. The Cavs were outscored 72-46 by the Pelicans in the second half.
Identifying the problem is a fine step. Fixing it is what matters. The Cavs clearly haven’t done that. They have now been outscored by 125 points in the second half during this nine-game losing streak.
“Definitely tests your character, see what you’re made of,” Thompson said. “Everyone’s got to look the mirror, like I’ve been saying. What do they value in this game, what matters, what’s their approach? Is there any care or love and desire for the game? If you love the game and you care about being a competitor you’re going to hate times like this. You’re going to have sleepless nights and it’s going to mess with you.”
The Cavs played with just nine guys once again, as both Matthew Dellavedova (ankle) and Rodney Hood (Achilles) were ruled out prior to tipoff.
Two-way player Jaron Blossomgame had his jersey hanging in his locker stall. But he did not join the team Saturday night. Blossomgame played for the G League’s Canton Charge on Friday and could join the Charge on the road Monday.
With a pair of backcourt players sidelined, Burks went back into the starting lineup. He tallied eight points on 2-of-9 shooting to go with six assists in 35 minutes.
The Cavs will wrap up their four-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers.