SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After losing their second straight game and for the third time in their past four tries, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade acknowledged that all is not right with the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
“Sometimes, when you’re winning as much as you’re winning, you have slippage,” Wade said of the 24-11 Cavs, who reeled off 18 wins in 19 games before their current dip. “We’ve had some slippage, and we’ve got to figure out a way to nip it in the bud before it becomes: ‘We in a rut, and we’ve got to get ourselves back out of it.'”
Cleveland fell to the 12-22 Sacramento Kings 109-95 on Wednesday to drop its record to 0-2 on a three-game road trip after losing 99-22 to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The trip wraps up with a game against the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
The Cavs’ bench, which came into the trip as the third-highest-scoring bench in basketball with an average of 40.6 points per game, followed a 21-point performance on 6-for-26 shooting against Golden State with just 32 points on 12-for-28 shooting against Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Kings’ bench scored 68 points, led by Vince Carter, who became the first player in league history to score 20-plus points off the bench at age 40 or older.
“We’re out of rhythm,” said Wade, the leader of the Cavs’ second unit. “We had a flow going, we had a rhythm going, but then things changed a little bit. You trying to bring new guys back. Tristan [Thompson] came back, and then the lineup was different. And you try to figure out your game. That’s the part of it when you have guys who you know that was out, and then they come back in. So we out of sorts a little bit, we out of rhythm, and we got to find it back. We will.”
The Cavs also need to find their defense. While keeping Golden State under 100 points was an accomplishment, the Kings shot 51.9 percent against the Cavs — including 40 percent from 3 (12-for-30) — a night after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers by 27 points.
With Isaiah Thomas working toward making his season debut, the Cleveland Cavaliers will hold a road practice Friday so Thomas can partake in a full scrimmage with his teammates.
“We just had some breakdowns that we can’t have,” said LeBron James, who saw his seventh triple-double of his season and the 62nd of his career go to waste (16 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds).
It was the first time the Cavs lost by double digits since a 124-107 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 1.
At several junctures in the game, Cleveland players could be seen looking at each other with their hands up after failed defensive possessions and then barking at each other about what went wrong as they made their way back up the court.
“It happens,” Wade said. “Obviously, we talk to each other. We respect each other, what we have to say. You have a conversation. It’s a part of it. Everyone wants to be perfect on the floor. No one wants to make mistakes, but we can’t do too much when everybody’s on the floor. When we get to the sideline, there’s a break in action, we have to talk to each other.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue pointed to a critical juncture midway through the third quarter, when the Cavs battled back to lead by three after trailing by as many as 13 in the first half and settled for questionable shots when they could have wrested control of the game.
“We had a chance to kind of extend the lead, getting three stops in a row. We took three bad shots,” Lue said.
The Cavs will have a day off Thursday in Napa, California, followed by a rare road practice Friday, when Isaiah Thomas is expected to scrimmage with Cleveland for the first time since he was acquired from the Boston Celtics in a trade in August, before the team ends the trip against the Jazz.
“It was a tough one to swallow,” Kevin Love said. “We’ve just got to bounce back against Utah.”