CLEVELAND -- In the wake of another lopsided defeat to a top team on national television, Cleveland Cavaliers players and coach Ty Lue questioned the effort and trust within the team.
"Don't look like [we tried]. We didn't have no fight," Lue said after the Cavs' 120-88 loss to the Houston Rockets, the team's eighth straight loss on national television and fourth by 24 or more points since Jan. 1. "I just think our mindset needs to change. I think we need to do things harder."
That has been a common refrain from Lue over the past month as the Cavs have been stuck in a slump that frequently appears to be self-inflicted. Isaiah Thomas said the blowouts aren't a product of toughness issues but trust issues within the locker room.
"We can't just say it was toughness. All they do is shoot 3s. I don't know what's so tough about that," Thomas said. "We're not together on both ends. There's a lot of one-on-one on the offense end, maybe because we don't trust each other. And then on the defensive end, it's the same thing. Guys are put on islands and there's no trust. I mean, if you don't trust something ... I don't know. I think it has a lot to do with trust on both ends."
Thomas is struggling as he continues to recover from a hip injury suffered 11 months ago. LeBron James is healthy, but his effort level has waned over the past several weeks, perhaps hitting rock bottom Saturday.
James failed to get back on defense within the first minute of the game, foreshadowing a night in which he gave significantly less than his normal effort on both ends. He scored just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, though he had nine rebounds and nine assists.
Cleveland has lost its past eight nationally televised games this season, losing them by an average of 18 points per game, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"I'm lost for words, actually," James said, referring to the Cavs' streak on national TV. "They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season. We haven't played good ball and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I'm at a loss for words."
The Cavs have gone through midseason struggles in each of the past three years but rallied to reach the NBA Finals each time.
"We gotta stop worrying about the past," James said. "This is this season, and we haven't played well versus anyone."
The Cavs have also made trades during each of the past three seasons. They haven't made a deal so far this season, and the deadline is Thursday.
"That's not a question for me. I show up to work every day. I bust my tail every day. I'm the first one to get to the gym and I'm one of the last ones to leave," James said. "I do my part. I control what I can control, and that is what I can control."