NEW YORK -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' problems were broken open and spilled across the nation on Thursday. The lack of heart and toughness, the inability to defend the simplest of plays, Kyrie Irving's rumored unhappiness . . . all of it exposed to a national audience during the Cavaliers' 117-86 loss at the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
The coach and general manager both lashed the players for their lack of effort in recent days, then they promptly responded with what was arguably their worst effort of the season in a game that was never close.
The Cavs surrendered six layups and dunks in the first quarter and nine in the first half. The Knicks made 10 of their first 13 shots and led by 17 just six minutes into the game. The Knicks shot uncontested three-pointers, they enjoyed open lanes to the basket. And never once did anyone wearing a Cavs jersey decide to do anything about it.
"Our competitive spirit is nonexistent," Cavs coach Mike Brown said after Tuesday's abysmal loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
"The lack of effort is just not acceptable," General Manager Chris Grant said Wednesday. "It's not who we are and who we want to be. It's got to be addressed head on."
It may have been addressed, but it certainly hasn't been resolved.
That was evident when J.R. Smith enjoyed a behind-the-back dunk because Irving and Dion Waiters didn't get back in transition. The Knicks followed on their next possession with a dunk from Tyson Chandler while Irving and Anthony Bennett stood and watched.
Brown immediately called a timeout as the Knicks strutted and danced off the floor with a 102-76 lead.
Irving had 24 points and six rebounds while shooting 10-for-25 and Luol Deng had 13 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cavs had little production anywhere else. Dion Waiters had 21 points, but 16 came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Tristan Thompson was invisible with two points and two rebounds. Tyler Zeller, starting in place of Anderson Varejao again, had two points and a rebound in 14 minutes.
Carmelo Anthony had 29 points in 30 minutes for the Knicks, including 18 in the first quarter when he nearly outscored the Cavs (20) by himself.
The Cavs surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 60 in the first half. It got so bad that Brown even tried Alonzo Gee, whose only time on the floor in nearly three weeks was three minutes of garbage time in a blowout win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
That game is also the Cavs' lone win in the last two weeks. They've now lost five of their last six.
As for Irving, he wasn't talking before the game.
But ESPN's Chad Ford wrote during his weekly chat Thursday afternoon that Irving has privately told people he wants out of Cleveland.
This isn't the first time Irving's alleged unhappiness has become an issue.
Given the state of the Cavaliers, no one is very happy these days.
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