CLEVELAND — Ohio State started it and the Browns worked overtime — again! — to continue it before the Cavaliers put an exclamation point on a horrible weekend for Northeast Ohio sports fans.
Playing their home opener Sunday evening at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs not only lost to one of the worst teams in the NBA, they got thrashed to the tune of 133-111 by the Atlanta Hawks.
“I don’t know if alarming is the right word,” forward Kevin Love said after the Cavs fell to 0-3, “but it sure sounds right right now.”
Rookie Trae Young led the Hawks (1-2), who started 41-year-old Vince Carter and whose rotation included players named DeAndre’ Bembry, Alex Poythress and Kevin Huerter, with 35 points. Young, who had 30 points with more than five minutes left in the third period, made 6 of 14 3-pointers for Atlanta, which finished 22-for-47 from deep.
“Trae is in a position where he’s the No. 1 option to shoot all the balls he wants to,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
A lot of guys were in position to take as many shots as they wanted. The Hawks, who could lose 60-plus games and contend with Sacramento for the worst record in the league, had 40 points in the second period and 41 in the fourth.
“You can’t do that and win,” Lue said.
Jordan Clarkson led the Cavs with 19 points off the bench, while Love had 16 points, 17 boards and three assists but scored just seven points on 2-for-13 shooting over the final 42 minutes.
“The second half it was just too perimeter-oriented for me,” Love said, adding, “We’ve got to have a go-to action. ... That’s on me, too, to get with the guys and see what we want to run.”
George Hill added 16 points for the Cavs, Cedi Osman used garbage time to finish with 12 on 5-for-15 shooting and Tristan Thompson added 11 points and nine boards.
Veteran swingmen Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith did not play, with Lue saying “I don’t know” when asked what went into that decision.
Rookie point guard Collin Sexton had his worst game as a pro, finishing with four points on 2-for-11 shooting with two assists, two turnovers and four fouls in 28 minutes. Young, by contrast, was 13-for-23 from the field with 11 assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes.
“It really wasn’t a matchup,” Sexton said. “We were just trying to get the win.”
Lue disagreed, saying Sexton’s “competitive nature got the best of him,” pointing out the 19-year-old tried to fight over numerous screens to defend Young when what the Cavs really wanted to do was switch.
“Our switches weren’t clean,” Lue said. “Then when we were switching, we were still getting beat to the basket.”
Shooting guard Kent Bazemore had 23 points for the Hawks, center Alex Len had 16 points, 11 boards and four assists and rookie and former North Royalton High standout Omari Spellman had 17 points off the bench. Atlanta also got 14 points from small forward Taurean Prince and 13 from Bembry, a third-year forward from St. Joseph’s.
“We’ve got to communicate and play defense,” Sexton said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Down as many as nine early in the third quarter, the Cavs trailed 92-86 heading into the fourth — and it could have been worse. Rodney Hood, scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in the first half, had all 13 of his points on 6-for-6 shooting in the first 7:49 of the third.
Nothing went right for the Cavs in the fourth quarter, as Atlanta made 10 3-pointers and added a handful of dunks against an extremely porous defense.
“We didn’t expect to be 0-3 right now,” Love said. “We’ve just got to keep looking at chances to get better.”
After going up 22-7 in the first five minutes of the game and maintaining a 34-24 lead after the first period, Cleveland’s defense took a long nap as Atlanta went up 64-60 at halftime.
The Cavs never led in the second half.
“We had a good thing going in that first quarter,” Love said. “We just couldn’t contain the perimeter.”