The Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t have put together a worse start to their post-LeBron era if they tried. Then, they blew a five-point lead in 42 seconds to the Orlando Magic and lost at the buzzer to an Evan Fournier deep two.
The Cavs are now 1-9, just a week removed from firing head coach Ty Lue and days from J.R. Smith requesting a trade and Kevin Love undergoing foot surgery. The team is sloppy on both ends of the floor without a star player to act as the focal point, and that showed on Monday night in a loss to a rebuilding Orlando team.
Things were looking up for Cleveland just prior to those 42 final seconds, when Smith drained what should have been the game-sealing three-point shot. Players were finally smiling!
And then the meltdown ensued. Here’s every major moment after Smith’s three-point shot.
1. The Cavs allowed an offensive board and an easy 2
Had the Cavs rebounded a Fournier three-point attempt on the very next possession, this one would’ve been over.
Instead, Smith failed to box out Aaron Gordon, and Gordon backed him down for a two.
Not a big deal, though. Cleveland’s still up three.
Time left: 23.8 seconds
2. Cedi Osman threw a miserable, unwarranted pass
All the Cavs had to do was hold the ball, draw a foul, and make a couple free throws to earn the win. The ball used to go to LeBron James in these situations, but without a star on the floor, there was confusion.
Even worse, Clarkson fouled D.J. Augustin on the way down. Augustin sunk both free throws, putting the Cavs up by one.
Time left: 18.7 seconds.
3. The Cavs botched the inbounds
Cleveland just had to wait to be fouled, sink the free throws, and get a stop.
Instead, in his first game officially as head coach, Larry Drew designed a play that called for Kyle Korver to catch the ball on the sideline. Hit with a double team, the ball came loose after it touched Korver’s hands. Mo Bamba handed it off to Fournier, who was fouled on his way to the hoop.
Fournier made one free throw and missed the next, giving Cleveland yet another chance to win.
Time left: 12.6 seconds
4. George Hill drove right to the hoop, got blocked and lost the ball
Hill made the mistake of not only missing the game-winning shot, but also leaving time on the clock as he accidentally deflected the ball out of bounds.
Time left: 1.8 seconds
5. Evan Fournier hits a game-winner as Osman loses him in coverage
Knowing full well where the ball was going, Osman still lost Fournier coming off a slight screen from Nikola Vucevic. He recovered by closing too far out and letting Fournier shot-fake and dribble in for the game-winning shot.
Game over. That’s a meltdown. To a bad team.
Why this start is so bad for Cleveland
Had the Cavs blown up their roster once James left, these losses would at least be in service to a brighter future. But this franchise instead locked up Love on a four-year, $120 million extension and kept its veterans in a desperate hope to stay in the postseason. That’s not gonna happen anymore.
The Cavs aren’t losing been because they’re testing out the waters of their youth, either. Rookie Collin Sexton played all of 16 minutes, while Smith and Hill closed the game out. The Cavs are trying to win and failing, making this run much worse than whatever the Suns or Knicks do this season;.
It doesn’t help that the organization has sent mixed messages to its players on and off the court, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
The first player [general manager Koby’ Altman ever signed to a contract as GM was Kyle Korver. It was a three-year, $22 million deal inked in July of 2017, but it came with an understanding: If LeBron were to leave, the Cavs would either trade Korver or buy him out of the deal so he could move his family to his next team during the summer. So when LeBron left July 1 for the Lakers, Korver asked for the Cavs to move him. They refused because, they told him, they wanted him to play and for the team to try and win.
Cleveland is in shambles, having picked one direction, only to head in another. A fire sale in The Land has to be coming soon.