Cavs’ Garland: ‘We’re playing soft’

The Cleveland Cavaliers got some good news Wednesday night when All-Star Darius Garland(back) made his return after missing three games.

However, that did not matter. 

Charlotte built a 24-point lead in the third. Cleveland cut the lead to 12 in the fourth, but the Hornets went on a 13-0 run to push the lead to 25, which was their largest lead of the game, and Charlotte would defeat the Cavs 119=98 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Cavs are frustrated, and the frustration got to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who was ejected after receiving two technicals in the third. After the game, Bickerstaff said he apologized to the team for losing his composure.

The Cavs(36-26) have lost two straight; Charlotte(31-33) snapped their two-game losing streak.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Hornets:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland was back, and he played like an All-Star. Garland had a game-high 33 points(5-10 3 PT FG) to go along with four assists. It was good to see him back on the court and making plays.

-Cleveland’s other All-Star, Jarrett Allen, had a double-double with 18 points(7/9 FG) and 11 rebounds. This was Allen’s second double-double in three games. He also had two steals and a block. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Well, where can we begin? 

Defense: It was a battle between the highest-scoring team(Hornets) in basketball against the team(Cavs), which allows the least amount of points in the NBA, and the Hornets’ offense overwhelmed the Cavs’ defense.

Cleveland allowed 96 points after three quarters.

The Hornets shot 50% from the floor and made 17 threes. 

The Cavs have lost five of six games, and in those five losses, Cleveland allowed over 100 points. 

First Quarter:  Charlotte jumped on the Cavs early, and they were hot from the start. The Hornets shot 60% from the floor, including 67% from deep. Kelly Oubre Jr. was 4/4 from three-point range in the quarter. Charlotte led 38-31 after one and led by 15 points at halftime.

Rebounding: Cleveland got outrebounded by the Hornets 45-37. In addition, Charlotte had 11 second-chance points, while the Cavs had five, so Charlotte cleaned up on the glass when they missed, which wasn’t a lot.

Bottom Line:

The Cavs could be in trouble. They are not defending like they were earlier in the season. Cleveland(106.5 ppg) is 26th in points per game, and in their last five losses, Cleveland is allowing 115.8 points per contest. Plus, they are missing the offense they would get from Caris LeVert.

It’s clear if this team does not get their defensive identity back soon, they could keep on losing, especially with the schedule they have coming up. Four of Cleveland’s next five games are against @76ers, Raptors, @Bulls, and @Heat, so the defense has to get better real quick.

As for the Eastern Conference standings, Cleveland(36-26) and the Celtics(37-27) are in a virtual tie for the fifth seed, and the seventh-seeded Raptors are 1.5 games behind both teams. 

“We’re playing soft. We’re giving up 38 points in a quarter that happened twice this week; that’s unacceptable,” Garland said.

What’s Next:

Cleveland travels to Philadelphia to battle the 76ers Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 29 points; Kelly Oubre Jr. had 19 points. Charlotte had six players in double figures.

Watch below as Garland talks loss to the Hornets:

Suns’ Booker: ‘I feel good, man, playing basketball again’

The Phoenix Suns(24-5) got back their leading scorer Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets(16-16) as Devin Booker made his return after missing seven games with a hamstring injury.

In under 27 minutes of action, Booker scored 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting (4-of-8 3FG) to go along with six rebounds and five assists.

Phoenix led wire-to-wire and routed the Hornets 137-106 at Footprint Center as JaVale McGee led the Suns in scoring for a second-straight game, tallying 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds in 16 minutes of action tonight.

The Suns have now won three straight and five out of their last six. 

“I feel good, man, playing basketball again,” Booker said postgame. “It’s not easy to sitting over on that sideline for a substantial amount of time, but we have a really good team, and I learned some things and seen some things from the sideline that I tried to implement today, and I’m going to use moving forward.”

Suns head coach Monty Williams added on Booker: “I just thought he had pop. I didn’t think I wasn’t going to see that, but I just saw Book (Devin Booker). He was gliding up and down the floor, which is what he does. And he and Chris (Paul), both those guys in pick-and-roll tonight, were willing passers, getting off the ball, and we were getting second side actions off of those two in pick- n-roll. He didn’t look winded. He thought I was taking him out in the first quarter around the five, and I was like, no, keep playing. You can tell, when you play, you know when a guy is tired slash winded slash trying to find his second wind. There is a look we all have, and he didn’t have it, and so I just wanted him to keep playing.”

Without Booker, the Suns were 5-2 and kept up their winning ways. According to Booker, one thing he noticed about the team while he was away is how much talent they have in Phoenix.

“We have a lot of talented players,” he said. “That know how to play the game and play for each other. It’s kind of rare to find teams that play the right basketball every single night, and I’ve been on the other end of that and know that. I don’t take it for granted the situation that we’re in.”

Phoenix does have a lot of talent, which was on full display against the Hornets. The Suns get back at it Tuesday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers. 

Porzingis on win over Hornets: ‘It’s weird, but I almost feel better on the second game of a back-to-back’

Without Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks needed others to step up to beat the Charlotte Hornets Monday night, and Kristaps Porzingis did just that. He had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks, all in the first half.

Dallas(14-13), who never trailed against Charlotte(15-14), led by as much as 30 points in this game. They took a 70-43 lead into halftime and would defeat the Hornets 120-96 at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks, who have struggled with shooting of late, especially from three-point range, shot 51.8% from the floor, including 19/41(46%) from downtown.

Dallas is 5-0 this season when they shoot 50% or better.

Porzingis, who played only nine minutes in the second half, finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks. 

“He was great,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said about Porzingis after the game. “He was great from the start. On the defensive end, he was great on the help, protecting the rim. Offensively, I thought, again letting the game come to him, letting the ball find him. He was great. I thought the bench, the energy from the voices over there even before the game started, got guys into the game. On a back-to-back, it’s easy to have that built-in excuse against a very talented offensive team, and I thought the guys did a great job.”

The Mavericks were playing the second half of a back-to-back after they defeated the Thunder Sunday, but according to Porzingis, he felt fresher against Charlotte than OKC.

“It’s weird, but I almost feel better on the second game of a back-to-back than when I have to get my body going for the first one,” Porzingis said. “I felt good. Some games are physically more taxing. Yesterday wasn’t one of those games. But I felt better today than I did yesterday in a weird way. My body, once it gets going, I just need to keep it up. Even on off days, I try to get some work in so I stay moving. I’m still young, but some days my body gets a little rusty. I’ve just got to keep working.”

The last time the Mavericks played the Hornets was the preseason, and in that game, they defeated Charlotte by 68 points. Trey Burke, who scored 22 points off the bench Monday, said he thought about that preseason game.

 During the game, I personally thought about that,” Burke said. “I figured that they would have this game marked already, so I tried to continue to let them know we can’t come out flat like we usually do and try to regain the lead in the third or fourth quarter.”

Dallas gets back at it Wednesday night against the Lakers; However, Doncic will miss his third straight game with a sore ankle.

Watch as Kidd talks win over Hornets:

The Great, The Not so Great, & Bottom Line of Cavs’ loss to Hornets

The Cleveland Cavaliers(0-2) fell to the Charlotte Hornets(2-0) 123-112 in their home-opener at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Friday night. 

Charlotte’s Miles Bridges had 30 points, Kelly Oubre scored 25 points off the bench, Gordon Hayward had 18 points and nine assists, and LaMelo Ball added 17 and six assists.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Collin Sexton had a hot shooting night for Cleveland. “Young Bull” had a game-high 33 points on 13/21 shooting from the field. 

-In his second game as a pro, Evan Mobley had another solid performance with 13 points, five rebounds, and two blocks.

-Ricky Rubio had his second straight double-double as he got the start for an injured Darius Garland(ankle). Rubio had 15 points and 10 assists in 28 minutes. 

-Kevin Love had six points and a team-high 11 rebounds off the bench in 24 minutes of action.

-Jarrett Allen’s incredible dunk on Mason Plumlee in the second dunk. That was nasty!

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

-Turnovers: Cleveland has 19 turnovers which led to 34 Hornets’ points. Rubio had six turnovers, including four in the fourth quarter. Rubio took the blame for the loss.

“It was all on me,” he said postgame. “It was bad passes. There’s nothing to blame on them. It was all on me and I take that blame and I take this loss.”

-Fourth-quarter: Cleveland entered the fourth quarter trailing 90-89. However, the Hornets would outscore the Cavaliers 33-23 in the quarter. Charlotte started the fourth on a 19-2 run and pushed the lead to as much as 18 points. In the opener against Memphis, the Grizzlies started the fourth on a 10-0 run, so Cleveland has to fix their fourth-quarter woes

-Rebounding: Cleveland was outrebounded again for the second straight game(46-36). Allen has to do a better job on the glass. Last season, he averaged a double-double for the first time in his career. Against Memphis, he only had four rebounds, and on Friday night, he again, had four rebounds. In addition, Charlotte had 16 second-chance points, while Cleveland only had six.

Rebounding is a part of defense because it ends the possession. Cleveland must improve in that area. 

-Defense: Against Memphis, Cleveland gave up 70 points in the paint and allowed 132 points. On Friday night against the Hornets, they gave up 58 points in the paint and allowed Charlotte to shoot 53% from the field. 

Cleveland has to protect their paint!

Browns DE Myles Garrett was in the building on Friday night, and Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff jokingly said the following about Garrett after the game:

“There were a few moments where I wish he would have protected the paint for us,” Bickerstaff said.

Bottom Line:

It was going to be tough to beat the Hornets without Garland, and hopefully, they can get him back tomorrow against Atlanta. The Cavaliers are a work in progress. Things might get worse before they get better. However, they have to find a way to take care of the basketball and be better on the defensive end.

What’s next:

Cleveland hosts the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. Atlanta routed the Mavericks 113-87 in their season and home opener on Thursday night.

Watch as Sexton and Rubio discuss the loss to the Hornets:

Wizards’ Westbrook on Beal: “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad’

The battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference came down to the final day of the season, and what happened between the Wizards(34-38) and the Hornets(33-39) on Sunday, epitomized what Washington has been about all season long.

Washington trailed by 14 points after one quarter and trailed 90-79 entering the fourth quarter. However, just like they’ve done all year long, they fought back. Bradley Beal, who returned after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth, and Russell Westbrook added eight of his 23 points in the final quarter as the Wizards defeated the Hornets 115-110 at Capital One Arena.

Westbrook also had his 184th career triple-double on Sunday as he added 15 rebounds and 10 assists. For Charlotte, Terry Rozier scored 22 points, and LaMelo Ball added 19.

With the victory, Washington will be the eighth seed and will take on the seventh-seeded Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night in the Play-In Tournament. If Washington wins, they will be the seventh seed. If they lose, the Wizards will play the winner of  the 10th-seeded Hornets and the ninth seeded Pacers for the eighth seed.

This win completed a big turnaround for the Wizards. Heading into their April 7 game against the Magic, Washington was 17-32 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Washington rallied with the second-best winning percentage in the league from April 7 to finish 17-6 in the final 23 games of the season.

Back to Beal, he was clearly not himself to begin the game, but he started to warm up as the game went along, and despite the injury, Beal got it done, which impressed Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook.

“I cannot say enough about Brad’s toughness,” Brooks said. “He is so skilled and athletic, but the four years I’ve been here, there’s not a lot of guys that have his mental toughness, and his focus, and his determination.”

Westbrook added on Beal: “You appreciate guys like him and don’t take his talent, his mental, his anything for granted,” Westbrook said. “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad.”

For the Wizards to get to the playoffs, they need Beal to be healthy, and hamstring injuries are tricky, so it will be interesting to see what he will look like in the Play-In Tournament.

This win over the Hornets and this season is a credit to the veteran leadership on this team, led by Westbrook and Beal. Washington could have quit when they were 17-32, but they didn’t, and now they are one win away from making the playoffs.

Notes:

  • Robin Lopez had 18 points and six rebound, and Ish Smith scored 14 points. Both players combined for 32 points off the Wizards’ bench on Sunday.

  • Beal finished the season averaging 31.3 points per game, the second highest in the league and the second highest in team history.

Listen to Westbrook, Lopez, and Smith as they discuss the Wizards’ win over the Hornets:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Hornets: ‘We weren’t able to get enough stops down the stretch’

The Cleveland Cavaliers(21-38) continued their playoff push on Friday night in Charlotte(29-30) against the Hornets, a team they had beaten twice this season, and for most of the game, it appeared the Cavaliers could do it again. Cleveland led 55-48 at halftime but was outscored in the third quarter by seven, and the game was tied at 78 entering the fourth.

Charlotte’s Terry Rozier scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth; Miles Bridges hit two dagger corner jump shots and scored seven of his 25 points in the fourth, and P.J. Washington also scored seven of his 25 in the final quarter as the Hornets avoided the season series sweep by the Cavs and won 108-102 at Spectrum Center. 

Cleveland was led by Collin Sexton’s 28 points and Darius Garland’s 27. 

“Give them credit; they made plays down the stretch,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who returned after missing Wednesday’s game due to personal reasons, said after the game. “Bridges hit big shots, Washington hit big shots. We weren’t able to get enough stops down the stretch.”

Turnovers were an issue for the Cavaliers on Friday night. Cleveland committed six of their 16 turnovers in the third quarter, and they got beat up on the glass. Charlotte had 15 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points. 

“I think the offensive rebounds hurt us for sure,” Bickerstaff said. “We gave up 15 offensive rebounds, and they won the turnover battle, so if you are given them extra possessions on the offensive boards, and you’re not taken care of the ball, that makes it difficult.”

Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo was huge on the glass. He finished with 11 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass. According to Jarrett Allen, that’s on him.

“I have to do a better job,” Allen said. “That falls on me. On my matchup, he got way too many offensive rebounds, which turned to extra possessions for the Charlotte Hornets, which led to extra threes on their end, so just put that side on me.”

With the loss on Friday night, Cleveland falls to five games behind the 10th-seeded Wizards, who the Cavaliers will play in D.C. on Sunday night. Washington has won seven straight and playing their best basketball of the season. There are 13 games left, so if Cleveland wants to make the playoffs, which is a long shot at this point, they have to beat Washington on Sunday night. 

Luka: ‘I just think my legs are really tired, but it’s not an excuse’

After defeating the Clippers by 51 points last weekend, the thought was maybe the Mavericks have found their groove, but in their home opener against the Hornets(2-2) on Wednesday night, the team took a step back, and their inability to make shots in the third quarter may have been the reason. 

The Mavericks(1-3) were down by 11 points at the break, and In the third quarter, Dallas went cold. They shot 4-24 from the field, including 1-16 from three-point range. The Mavericks were outscored by 18 points in the quarter and trailed by 29 points entering the fourth quarter. Ultimately, Dallas would fall to the Hornets 118-99. 

Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball had a career-high 22 points, and Miles Bridges had a double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Mavericks with 18 points.

“Ugly night,” Mavericks head Rick Carlisle said after the game. “There’s not a whole lot else to say. We really were dominated for three quarters. The fourth quarter — I love the way we fought in the fourth quarter, but obviously, it was too late. Disappointing loss.”

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who was 4-10 from the field and was held to 12 points, got up some extra shots up after the game. According to Doncic, his legs are not where they need to be at this point of the season, which might be true when you consider he is 2-21 from three-point range.

“I just think my legs are really tired, but it’s not an excuse,” Doncic said. “I don’t think it’s the problem. The problem was shooting today. Defensively, they made a bunch of shots. They didn’t feel us early in the game. We missed a lot of open shots early in the game.”

Carlisle added: “It’s clear Luka doesn’t have his rhythm yet. Everybody is working through something at this point in time. The thing that we can’t work through is the idea or the fact that, in this league this year, you’ve got to step on the floor playing with full force all of the time, or you’re going to get your ass beat.”

Because of the truncated offseason and a very limited preseason, Doncic believes that we will continue to see many strange things in the early part of the season.

 “I said it before the preseason, these games are going to be weird,” he said. “You’ve never seen two teams lose by 50. I think it’s still a lot of people trying to get in their rhythm. Normal, it’d still be in preseason, Right?”

Dallas has to beat a team like Charlotte at home, but to Doncic’s point, you might continue to see some interesting results in the early part of the 2020-21 season. But eventually, Doncic and Dallas must find a rhythm if they want to get back on track.

Report: Dwight Howard, Nets negotiating buyout

According to ESPN, Dwight Howard and the Brooklyn Nets are negotiating a buyout that will allow Howard to become a free agent.

The 32-year-old Howard was traded to the Nets on Wednesday for Timofey Mozgov and two second-round picks.

Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for the Hornets last season.

Should be interesting to see what the market might be for Howard, who according to reports, was not very liked by his teammates in Charlotte.