Things were looking bright for the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17) going into halftime. In the past three games the Cavaliers have been sputtering in the beginning quarter, being able to shoot just 34.9 percent from the field. They went into the half shooting 46.8 percent, and leading 52-49. The lead should have been quite larger, but the Cavs allowed the Detroit Pistons (7-15) to go on a big run with under one minute left to go before the end of the second quarter.
Even after trailing by six points going into the third quarter after leading by as much as 10 points in the second frame, the Cavaliers were still in it. It was the 6-0 run that the Pistons went on to close out the first half that swung momentum in Detroit’s favor and doomed the Wine and Gold. It was a gateway for Brandon Night, who finished the second half shooting 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from the field (4-of-4 from three). He finished the final 24 minutes of the games with 21 points, four assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block. That’s something that you just can’t let happen; let an opponent get hot and leave him open.
The defense was very passable in the first 23 minutes of the game, but it was the final minute or so of the second quarter that pretty much summed up how the Cavaliers held down the home fort in the second half. Cleveland got back to their old shooting habits in the second half, as the second-worst shooting percentage team ended the game with just a mark of 42.9 percent. You could see the bad shooting habits from the Cavs highlighted in the play of Jeremy Pargo once the Wine and Gold were staging a comeback in the fourth quarter. He chucked up a bone-headed and highly-contested three and also drove in the lane, which ended up in a block. He did, though, finish with 24 pionts. With all these close losses, all I can think of is, “When will Kyrie Irving be back?” The Cavs have been 2-9 in his absence.
However, you can see the team developoing in ways that the team will benefit once their 38.1 points of missing scoring production returns to the court. Without Dion Waiters and Irving, the bench has stepped up. C.J. Miles and Tyler Zeller carried the load tonight, combining for 28 points. Tonight was the first time that I saw Omri Casspi back down in a while, and Donald Sloan was back to his regular self. The starting core was a smidge better than the night before, but Daniel Gibson’s struggles from three gave less opportunites for the Cavaliers to grab easy rebounds, even though they outrebounded the Pistons 46-35. The two Detroit bigs, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe, were kept in check for the most part, but Monroe did his business from the free throw line.
That was due to the great shifty defense from Anderson Varejao. He finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, getting back on track offensively after an offnight in Minnesota.
The physicallness of the Pistons allowed them to reach the charity stripe 33 times, and also force 14 Cavalier turnovers. Detroit converted the Cavalier mistakes, most notably an early fourth quarter errant pass from Miles that ended in a Knight layup. That put the Pistons up 88-74 with under eight minutes to go in the game. Watching a game slip away has lately been an epidemic spotted in the first quarter, but this time a second half surge led to 104-97 Cleveland loss.
The Cavs are a frustrating team. Each loss seems like a different contributing factor. One night the free throw line sinks the ship, they lose the battle of the boards or they come out cold to start the game; it’s one of the most frustrating things to watch. The Cavaliers hold the second worst record in the NBA, but I think things are a little different with Kyrie. This team will continue to lose if they don’t fix their problem with being a consistent team. This team will have a chance to prove their worth against the Los Angeles Lakers at home Tuesday, when the Wine and Gold will welcome back Antawn Jamison.