Cavaliers blown out again on national TV
CLEVELAND — Ashamed to show his face any longer, LeBron James stared at the floor as he headed toward the locker room before the final horn sounded.
An inglorious exit.
The Cavaliers have become an embarrassment.
“I’m lost for words,” James said after Cleveland was humiliated by the Houston Rockets, who rained down 19 3-pointers on the disconnected Cavaliers in a 120-88 blowout on Saturday night.
Chris Paul scored 22 points with 11 assists, Ryan Anderson added 21 points and the long-range Rockets became the latest team to manhandle the Cavaliers on national TV.
“They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season,” said James, who spoke softly with a baseball cap pulled over his eyes. “We haven’t played good at all and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I’m at a loss for words.”
James Harden only scored 16 — 15 below his league-leading average — but Houston rolled to its fourth straight win and improved to 11-2 since Jan. 8.
Meanwhile, the Cavs’ downward spiral accelerated.
Since losing at Golden State on Christmas, James and his teammates are 0-8 in network broadcasts and have been embarrassed in several matchups against quality teams. They lost by 28 at Minnesota, 34 in Toronto, 24 at home to Oklahoma City and 32 to the Rockets, who toyed with the defending Eastern Conference champs.
Following the game, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was asked if his team tried.
“Don’t look like it,” Lue said. “We didn’t have no fight. I thought they took the game to us on both ends.”
James finished with just 11 points and didn’t play in the fourth quarter as the Rockets were too far ahead. Isaiah Thomas scored 12 for Cleveland.
Somber wouldn’t even describe the mood in the Cavaliers’ locker room, where players dressed quietly without any conversation.
“Another embarrassing loss,” Thomas said. “Something gotta change. I don’t know. It was bad from the jump. I don’t want to comment too much on it. I need to watch film to see what really went down. It wasn’t a good one for us on both ends.”
The Cavs played their second game without injured All-Star forward Kevin Love, who could be out two months with a broken left hand suffered earlier this week.
Love’s injury hurts, obviously, but there are far bigger issues with a Cleveland team that has lost 12 of 18 and appears to be tearing apart at the seams.
With the Rockets up 35 in the third quarter, the Cavs didn’t even bother to huddle during a timeout. Thomas and J.R. Smith sat at the middle of the scorer’s table while James and other players wandered near the bench area as Lue and his staff tried to figure what to do next.
James doesn’t have any answers. The three-time champion said the situation is reminiscent of his first season with Miami. The Heat started 9-8 but finally found their groove.
James isn’t so sure the Cavs can do the same.
“When you have an opportunity, you do your job and you do it to the highest of your ability and you live with those results. We don’t do that every day.”
One of James’ closest friends, Paul isn’t writing the Cavs off just yet.
“You got LeBron James over there in that locker room,” he said. “What else does the man need to do? I’m a little biased, but what else does he need to do? If you all don’t believe in him, you’re all trippin’.”
The Cavs actually did a decent job on Harden, who recorded the first 60-point triple-double earlier in the week against Orlando. Harden went just 5 of 14 from the field.
Down 26 at halftime, James and the Cavs walked off the floor hearing boos from Cleveland fans who have grown tired of their lack of defense, chemistry and commitment.
With the trade deadline on Thursday, Cleveland might need to make a major move to have any chance of getting back to its fourth straight Finals. This group isn’t getting it done.
“Our mindset has to change — what we’re really playing for,” Lue said. “Are we playing to win or are we playing to look good? We have to be tougher. When things get tough we have to be tougher.”
Rockets: Harden, who went 1 for 11 on 3s, tweaked his ankle in the third quarter, but stayed in. … Paul passed Andre Miller (8,624) for ninth place on the career assists list. … G Eric Gordon (lower back stiffness) missed his second consecutive game, but coach Mike D’Antoni expects the team’s second-leading scorer to play Tuesday in Brooklyn.
Cavaliers: Love met with reporters before the game and acknowledged he’s “still down” after suffering his third broken hand in 10 seasons. He said the previous two times he recovered more quickly than expected. … Dwyane Wade passed Payton (21,813) points and moved into 32nd place on the career list.