Thursday, February 10, 2011
Cavaliers tie Tampa Bay Buccaneers' record for professional sports futility
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers' record-setting losing streak is intact. Byron Scott finally snapped.
Cleveland's first-year coach unloaded on his team during and after a listless 103-94 loss on Wednesday night, extending the Cavs' NBA record skid to 26 and tying them with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the longtime national punchline for failure -- for the longest stretch of incompetence in major American pro sports.
"I'm mad as hell," said Scott, who kept the postgame locker room closed for more than 30 minutes. "I can deal with losing, especially when our guys play as hard as they have in the last couple weeks, but I find it very hard to deal with when guys don't come out ready to play."
The Pistons were supposedly a beatable opponent for the cellar-dwelling Cavs (8-45), still winless since Dec. 18 and now losers of a hard-to-imagine 36 of 37.
Instead, Cleveland's season slipped further into shame.
"Everybody's mad as hell," guard Daniel Gibson said when told of his coach's surly mood. "To lose like that and for it to get to this point and still sometimes not see a sense of urgency, I can see why it would push you to that point. What are you going to do? It's either do it or don't.
"The guys have to figure that out."
The Cavs' next chance to end the slide will be Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. After that comes a home game against the road-winless Washington Wizards on Sunday.
"Something has to give when they play the Wizards," said two-time reigning NBA MVP LeBron James, whose departure from Cleveland for Miami has led to the Cavs' stunning collapse in their first season without him, on Tuesday night after the Heat beat Indiana at home. "I think that should be a nationally televised game, honestly."
Rodney Stuckey scored 22 to pace the Pistons, who didn't want to be remembered as the team that let the Cavs get off the mat. Detroit's players said they were motivated by ESPN analyst Tim Legler, who predicted Cleveland would end its streak against the Pistons.
"You don't want to be the team that loses to them," Tracy McGrady said. "Tim Legler, we heard you. You gave us some bulletin board material. We used that."
Like James, McGrady is looking forward to seeing the Cavs-Wizards tilt.
"As crazy as it sounds, I want to see them and Washington play," McGrady said. "I don't wish anyone to have a bad losing streak, but I want them to get to Washington, 0-and-whatever they could be, and see whose streak ends. That would be something that would be interesting to watch."
The Cavs and their fans had hoped this was the night this streak, that has stretched through the holidays, the NFL playoffs and almost two months, stopped.
Cleveland had played well in its previous four games, losing by a combined 21 points and actually came into the matchup favored to beat Detroit, which was playing its second straight after hosting the league-leading San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
But the Cavs fell into a 12-point hole at half, and although they pulled within three in the third, they fell apart early in the fourth. Only some late buckets in garbage time made the score respectable.
When the final horn sounded, Cleveland's fans didn't bother booing as the Cavs dropped their heads and walked dejectedly to the locker room.
"Well, one of these days," one fan climbing the stairs mumbled as he left.
Scott, who has remained publicly stoic during the streak, didn't mince words afterward. He confronted his players about their poor showing.
"We got all professional basketball players in there and at some point in time you have to have some pride in what you're doing. Tonight, we didn't come out with that pride. We came out just going thought the motions like we were going to win the game no matter what they did. They played last night and I thought it looked like we played last night.
"Everybody's got to go home and take a good, hard look in the mirror.
"Don't point fingers. Look at yourself first."
There had been so many encouraging signs lately for the Cavs. They fell 99-96 on Monday in Dallas, when they failed to execute in the closing seconds and set a new league mark for consecutive losses over one and two seasons. Scott was heartened by his young team's effort against the Mavericks, and with eight straight home games ahead, the time seemed right for Cleveland to get back in the win column.
The Pistons built an 11-point lead after three and never let Cleveland get going in the fourth.
Will Bynum scored 17 and Charlie Villanueva 13 for Detroit, which played without guard Rip Hamilton. He sat out with a strained right groin.
Antawn Jamison scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half for Cleveland. J.J. Hickson scored 18 with 15 rebounds, but the Cavs got just 17 points from their bench.
Scott maintains he has no regrets about taking the Cleveland job, which he accepted not knowing if James would re-sign. After hearing him asked about the decision so many times lately, Scott's wife, Anita, asked her husband if he laments coming to Cleveland.
"No," he told her.
He's being tested by a streak that won't end.
"The thing I focus on is guys getting better," he said. "I thought the last week guys got better each game and tonight I thought we took a gigantic step backwards. We had no sense of urgency whatsoever and that kind of amazes me. When we've lost as many in a row as we lost and when you've been as close as we've been in the last four or five games and to be at home and come out the way we came out -- that amazes me."