CLEVELAND (AP) — As this disheartening season dwindles to its final moments, Kyrie Irving stood up and took responsibility for how he and his teammates played in their past two games.
Finally, some effort.
Showing little fight or interest, the Cavaliers were beaten Friday at Milwaukee by the NBA's worst team and followed it up with a loss to Boston, another non-playoff squad.
On Monday, Irving said the performances were unacceptable.
"It's disappointing, just based on our effort," Irving said following practice. "Our fans definitely don't deserve that, especially to end the season. We preached it and said we wanted to finish strong, but teams are just getting the best of us. Our effort level just wasn't there and it can show. It's disappointing and we have to be disappointed in ourselves these last two games. Our fans don't deserve it."
The two dreadful losses came just days after the Cavs were officially eliminated from the postseason. It would be understandable for there to be some kind of letdown, but what made them more troubling was that coach Mike Brown implied his team gave up.
"We look like we're going through the motions," Brown said after the 111-99 loss to the Celtics. "It's not good. It's not good at all."
Brown was more positive after Monday's workout, and came away encouraged his team would battle in Wednesday night's finale against Brooklyn.
"Guys worked hard. It was good to see," Brown said. "I don't know any other way. We want to establish a foundation, a culture here going forward, not just to try to get better for today or do the right thing for today, but long-term it can have lasting effects on the team that are very beneficial for us."
Brown needs his best player to lead the way.
In the losses to Milwaukee and Boston, Irving made 7 of 27 shots (1 of 9 on 3-pointers) and had four assists in more than 62 combined minutes. Following Saturday's game, he left the locker room before media members were permitted to enter.
The Cavs are missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, and Irving has yet to play a postseason game after three NBA seasons. In some respects, this year has been more challenging than his prior two for the All-Star, who acknowledged the Cavs haven't been able to shake off not being one of the Eastern Conference's top eight teams.
"I feel like there's a little bit of hangover, especially when it gets down to close to the end of the season," he said. "I know it did for me, being disappointed and not being able to get a taste of the playoffs for my third year. It's more or less a pride thing, but we're professionals and we've just got to play this last game as hard as we can and finish the season strong like we preached."
The Cavs were unable to dig their way back from a dreadful first half under Brown, who never won fewer than 45 games in his five-year stint with Cleveland from 2005-10. The club has gone 16-16 since general manager Chris Grant was fired and there have been signs of growth.
Irving believes the tough times will make the Cavs better.
"I feel like we're making strides in the right direction and we've had a little bit of a lapse, but that happens with young teams," he said. "There is definitely a lot of positives from this season, which I'm happy about and we're finishing the season all as one group and close-knit, which I'm proud of."
Still, there are questions about the future and especially about Irving, who is expected to be offered a maximum contract extension this summer. Irving has been noncommittal about whether he'll accept it, and following Friday's loss, Irving posted a quote on Twitter that he left open for interpretation.
Irving tweeted, "'Jump over the fence...no regrets.'"
He was asked what it meant.
"I'm going to let you dissect that," he said. "I'm just going to let you dissect that. Whatever you want to think about that."