CLEVELAND — There was a lot of booing inside Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night, but not because it was Halloween.
The Cavaliers — or at least someone dressed up as them — began defense of their Eastern Conference championship in dismal fashion, losing their season opener 92-74 to the Dallas Mavericks in front of a sellout crowd of 20,562.
“We didn’t play hard and we didn’t execute,” said Cleveland small forward LeBron James, who was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in his career. “We didn’t do anything right.”
The Cavaliers were down 14 after one period, by 20 at halftime and by 25 with 4½ minutes left in the third period. They did stage a brief rally late in the third period, but were still down 19 when Dallas’ Devin Harris hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“As a whole, we played bad,” Cleveland shooting guard Larry Hughes said. “Every stat shows it. We definitely have to get better. I don’t think it can get any worse than that. That was pretty bad.”
There were a lot of reasons for the Cavaliers’ struggles, but the individual woes of James were at the top of the list.
Guarded by Eddie Jones or Trenton Hassell — several other Mavs were always ready to help — James got his third foul midway through the second quarter, had just six points at the end of the third period and finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in 36 minutes.
Hughes, who did tie a career high with seven steals, was actually worse than James, but Cleveland fans have started to get used to the seven-point, 2-of-13 shooting night he put up in the opener.
“It’s going to be tough if Larry and LeBron go 4-of-24 from the field combined,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “We aren’t going to win many games.”
The only player who performed well for the Cavaliers was center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who put up 17 points and 18 rebounds in 34 dominating minutes. Power forward Drew Gooden finished with 12 points and 10 boards, but was no factor when his team needed him most.
“We got our behinds kicked,” Brown said. “Dallas came in here and did what they wanted to do offensively and defensively.”
The Mavs got 24 points off the bench from guard Jason Terry, who hit six 3-pointers in eight attempts; 17 points from Jerry Stackhouse; 15 points, eight boards and six assists from Dirk Nowitzki; and 13 points from Harris.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, got booed off the court after a first half in which they were way more trick than treat. Cleveland trailed 54-34 at that point, but it could have been worse considering James was scoreless and Hughes was 1-of-8 from the field.
James picked up his third foul with 6:27 to go in the second quarter when he drove to the hoop and was called for a highly questionable offensive foul after inadvertently elbowing Nowitzki in the face. The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder sat out the rest of the half.
“I thought it was a strong move,” James said. “I got into the lane and tried to jump straight up. I’ve got to lose some weight, I guess.”
The Cavaliers were already down 18 at the time James got his third foul, so their struggles went a lot deeper than being without their superstar.
Of course, even when James was on the floor in the first half, he did nothing. The 22-year-old did not have a point, rebound or assist until hitting Gooden with a behind-the-back bounce pass for a dunk with 4:57 to go in the first period.
In fact, over the first 6½ minutes of the game, James didn’t even attempt a shot as Cleveland quickly fell behind 22-12. It was 29-15 after one, at which time James had no points, no rebounds, one assist and one shot attempt in 11 minutes.
He had the same point, rebounding and assist totals and was 0-of-4 from the field at halftime, when the Cavaliers might have been behind by 30 were it not for Ilgauskas.
The big man had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, when he was 7-of-12 from the field and the rest of the guys in orange uniforms were 8-of-30. At that point, Ilgauskas had one less field goal (7) than the rest of his teammates combined and one more rebound than all of them put together.
That’s why there was a lot of booing as the Cavaliers headed to the locker room.
“We didn’t create a lot of energy,” James said. “We didn’t play well and the fans let us know it.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Knicks
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: FSN Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM