Cleveland Cavaliers embarrassed by short-handed Golden State Warriors in 120-114 loss

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers have a new leader in the clubhouse for their worst loss of the season. And this one will be hard to top.

Despite Golden State playing without four of its usual starters at the end of an exhausting road trip, the Cavs lost to the Warriors’ B-team 120-114 on Friday night. It is Cleveland’s third loss in the last four games and first at home since December 26 against the Brooklyn Nets.

Humiliating. Shameful. Miserable. Mind blow. Ugly. Choose an adjective. They all fit.

The Cavs were unprepared, unmotivated and lifeless. It started from the jump, when the Warriors scored 15 points in the first four minutes — and just kept rolling, even with their best players in street clothes.

“We didn’t respect the game. It’s that simple,” said Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff after the loss. “They’ve got champions there and we thought some of those guys were out, so we’d take it lightly and we got what we deserved.”

After the Warriors’ overtime loss in Boston about 24 hours earlier, coach Steve Kerr sat superstar Stephen Curry along with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Reserves Andre Iguodala and James Wiseman were also unavailable. Before the tip, Kerr said he was playing the long game, trying to juggle his rotation and field a competitive lineup, while also getting enough rest and recovery for his high-minute regulars.

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Curry recently returned after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury, recording 43 minutes in Thursday’s loss to Boston.

That absence appeared to be a lull for the Cavs – even if they didn’t have leading scorer Donovan Mitchell due to a groin injury or veteran backup Ricky Rubio, who was kept for maintenance in connection with his surgically repaired left knee.

Instead, Cleveland was gunned down by the undermanned Warriors – a group of feisty snipers who blasted out the lights.

Building the lead to 20 points in the third quarter, before another signature too-few-too-late comeback attempt by the Cavs was stopped, Golden State—without almost anyone—threw in 23 triples. It was just two away from matching a season high. Just four off the franchise record. The Warriors went deep 23 of 43, many of them uncontested. The 14 brands in the first half were the best of a season.

“They’re good basketball players, and if you don’t respect them, they’ll make you pay,” said Bickerstaff. “We came out of the gate soft and disrespectful, and they were there shooting warm-up shots with no competition, no challenges, no one in their space and they gave us what we deserved.”

Jordan Poole, the only available member of Thursday’s starting group in Boston, led the way. He finished with a game-high 32 points on 10 of 23 from the field and 5 of 12 from outside the arc in 41 minutes. Ty Jerome added 22 points on 9 of 13 shots and 3 of 4 from deep, including a timely dagger to push Golden State back forward by seven points after the Cavs trimmed the lead to just four at the two-minute mark. Donte DiVincenzo finished with 17.

In all, eight Warriors made at least one triple. Stephen who? Klaus who? Golden State didn’t need the Splash Brothers to overwhelm Cleveland’s disinterested defense.

The Cavs finished with a 122.0 defensive rating, well above their second-place finish on the season. The Warriors led for nearly 43 minutes. There were only seven lead changes and two ties.

“I don’t think we overlooked them. They are in the league for a reason,” said Darius Garland. “They got it going well in the first quarter. When you get going in the first one you gain confidence, so that leads throughout the whole game and that was it.

Garland finished with 31 points and 10 assists. Caris LeVert came in with 22. Evan Mobley added 17 points and seven rebounds.

“I prepare the same way for every game,” said LeVert. “But I think obviously we didn’t play well. We didn’t play the way we wanted to play. There were a lot of breakdowns defensively, a lot of mistakes in scouting reports, things we don’t normally do. We just didn’t play well at all. They are still champions, and because of the way they play, they spread the field. They move the ball and shoot a lot of 3s. But we just couldn’t quite get it together tonight.”

Before the match, Bickerstaff said his team needed a professional approach and to play at the same level, despite having to play against a small group.

I can’t get around it. The Cavs fell short of that standard. Unfortunately. Embarrassing.

All Star message

As the Cavaliers push for Garland to join his buddy Mitchell in the backcourt in Salt Lake City for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, Garland is lagging behind the fan vote, meaning his All-Star destiny is likely in will be in the hands of NBA coaches who are responsible for choosing reserves. So, what is Bickerstaff’s message to his fellow coaches?

“It’s the same as last year: he influences winning,” said Bickerstaff. “That’s what we value is winning. We want guys to represent all the right things and Darius represents all the right things. He is selfless. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great player on top of all those things, but he’s what we want players to be as coaches. He helps a team win at a level that I think should be recognised.”

Next one

The Cavs host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m

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