CLEVELAND -- Everything was set up for a great night.
The Cavaliers had won three straight. Golden State was wounded, a team of basketball zombies that was missing three starters with injuries. Plus, the Warriors played the night before, winning at Toronto. Then they had to fly to Cleveland.
Honestly, folks, you cant ask for a better situation.
Those reasons and more are why the Cavs 108-95 home loss Tuesday really stinks.
And on this night, you cant even use youth as an excuse. The Cavs have two rookies, sure. But the Warriors have four.
Yet it was the Warriors that came out and acted like they had something for which to play. They acted like the game actually mattered.
Now dont misunderstand. The Cavs wanted to win, too. They just didnt behave that way.
Clearly, theyre still learning. Theyre still figuring out that, by golly, you have to bring it every night, against every team, in every moment.
Coach Byron Scott warned the Cavs beforehand that the Warriors werent to be taken lightly. He compared them to a cornered animal. Sure, Stephen Curry (ankle), Harrison Barnes (knee) and Andrew Bogut (rest) were out.
But guess that what meant?
It meant other guys were getting an opportunity to shine and theyre guys who dont get an opportunity that often.
So Scotts theory made perfect sense.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, both the Cavs and Warriors proved their coach right. Not a big surprise. Scott has been around this league a long time. He knows what hes talking about.
As for players like Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and others well, theyre still figuring it out.
And this wasnt just a lesson in taking your opponent seriously. It was the NBA equivalent of getting a swift kick to the crotch.
They just kicked our butts, to be honest with you, Irving said.
Irving finished with 14 points on a miserable 5-for-17 shooting. This came one week after which he became just the fifth player in league history to string together three straight games of at least 30 points before his 21st birthday.
In fact, Irving averaged 35.7 in the previous three games (all wins). He shot 61 percent from the field. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
But Tuesday? Eh, not so much.
I just wasnt myself in terms of my mental focus, he admitted. Thats no excuse.
Irving was a game-time decision after missing the morning shootaround with a virus thats been kicking the entire teams derriere. Its attacked everyone from shooting guard C.J. Miles to some of the assistant coaches. Irvings gotten it twice.
Im just feeling like crap, Irving said.
Thompson (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Waiters (18 points, seven assists) tried to pick up the slack offensively -- and you cannot argue their continued progress is a positive sign.
But never leading a game against a decimated visiting opponent on the second night of a back-to-back? Yeah, well, thats for the birds.
Thats especially true when you consider Warriors guard Klay Thompson was able put together his best Carmelo Anthony imitation.
By halftime, the Warriors Thompson had 18 points, including 4-for-4 shooting on three-pointers. By the final buzzer, he had scored 32.
Again, its not that the Cavs werent there physically. They did try. But mentally and emotionally, well, they need to do better. They say they know that, but its getting time to put the plan into action, kids.
There was a lack of energy, Tristan Thompson said, repeating the credo of the entire locker room. We didnt match their intensity and they hit us in the mouth.
Thats never any fun. The Cavs are learning that a lot. Hopefully for their sake, it wont always be this way.
After all, it doesnt get much easier than this. Just ask the Warriors coach.
We had every excuse to walk out of here with a loss, Mark Jackson said.
The Cavs, meanwhile, had every reason to walk out with a win. Next step: Actually doing it.