CLEVELAND -- Some lessons can be difficult to learn, but making necessary changes in order to improve one's standing is part of being a professional.
The Cleveland Cavaliers suffered a 122-101 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday, but in defeat, the players said they learned how coach Gregg Popovich has constantly gotten his team to play at a championship level.
"With that team, you just can't make a lot of mistakes and we paid for it," guard Dion Waiters said. "That's a great team and it shows how well they move the ball. Everybody touches the ball. It gets from side to side and it's tough playing defense for 24 seconds against a team like that, that never really makes mistakes."
"They've got guys who can play. They've got a bench who comes in and gets them going. Pop does a great job keeping them focused. That's a great team. They've won championships. They've been together and they know how to win. We're still trying to figure things out, but at the end of the day, I feel that we're getting better too."
While the Spurs went five of 21 from the field in the first quarter, they finished the game 43 of 90 (47.8 percent), and they turned 16 Cavaliers turnovers into 19 points.
"After that first quarter, they kind of buckled down and got more physical," guard Kyrie Irving said. "They do things a veteran ball club should do. They pressured us, made it tough on us on both ends of the floor."
San Antonio's bench scored 60 of its 122 points, and four players, Patty Mills (16), Manu Ginobili (11), Marco Belinelli (11) and Boris Diaw (16) reached double figures in its 23rd road victory of the season.
"They all play the same way," Irving said. "They bring in Patty Mills, and he's a guy that just brings an instant spark for them every, single night. It's just a great team, all around.
"That second unit is going to play just as hard, if not harder than the first group. Sometimes, Pop takes out that first group and expects the second group to continue the lead or grow it."
It is the type of teamwork the Spurs used in their win over the Cavaliers that has Cleveland's players focused on becoming a productive unit.
In his return to the floor after missing seven games because of injury, guard Dion Waiters came off the bench and scored 24 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including two of three from three-point range, in 23 minutes of playing time.
"He's great, had great energy," Irving said of Waiters. "He came out and gave us a spark, especially in that second quarter. He played some spectacular minutes for us tonight, and that's what we need on a game-by-game basis. I know he's competing, playing hard and that's all we can ask of him."
And while Irving looks for more energy from his backcourt mate, he also plans on mirroring San Antonio's success in the pick-and-roll as he continues to work with center Spencer Hawes, whom the Cavaliers acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers shortly after the All-Star break.
"For me, it's frustrating just from a point guard's standpoint because I keep messing up our pick-and-roll," Irving said. "He taps himself on the chest saying it's his fault, but mainly, it's my fault. Just getting used to that pick-and-roll with him, I know he's a pick-and-pop big, but we're going to get on the same page.
"For me, it's just continuing to communicate with him, get the ball to where he likes it, on the perimeter. Especially when we're playing sideline pick-and-roll, I've just got to do better with that."