CLEVELAND, OH – The Charlotte Bobcats handed the Cleveland Cavaliers their first loss of season at Quicken Loans Arena Friday night, 86-80. Leading the way for the Bobcats was second-year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 16 points.
Kyrie Irving, who was wearing a protective mask due to a broken nose, led the Wine and Gold with 18 points and 10 assists. But in addition to his second double-double of the season, Irving also had six turnovers.
The Cavaliers won the tip-off and quickly got on the board with a Tristan Thompson jump hook. The Cavs set the tempo early and led after the first quarter, 18-12. They would hold the lead for the first 37 minutes of the game.
The second half started out strong for the Cavs, fueled by C.J. Miles, who started in the place of Dion Waiters, and Earl Clark.
Miles started the third frame with newfound confidence. He netted his first two field goals, after going 1-of-6 from the field in the first half.
Clark started in place of Alonzo Gee, in what Coach Mike Brown called a “gut feel.”
He was a nonfactor early on, but much like Miles, he helped jumpstarted the Wine and Gold at the start of the third quarter.
With 10:00 left in the third, Clark hit a spot-up three from the right wing that revved up the energy in The Q and gave the team a 46-35 lead. He scored 10 points and was 3-3 from the field during the third.
But in the midst of Clark’s strong quarter, something happened with the rest of the team and tides began to turn.
“Coming out in the second half, I thought we were good,” coach Brown said in a press conference after the loss. “About the halfway point in that third quarter and going into the fourth quarter, there was about a 10-12 minute stretch in between the quarters where we just didn’t play with a sense of urgency.”
In the stretch Brown mentioned, the visitors outscored the Wine and Gold 37-14.
The Cavs defense, which has been a strong suit through the first 10 games, lost its intensity. They had built a double-digit lead early in the third, but the Bobcats began to claw away at it.
“Charlotte got everything that they wanted, and then they got into a rhythm,” Brown said. “And from there, it snowballed.”
The perimeter defense of the Cavs was a huge weakness. Charlotte hit eight threes on the night.
Josh McRoberts sank two key threes for the ‘Cats in the third as they begun their run. They took their first lead of the night when Anthony Tolliver buried a deep ball 37 seconds into the final period.
Coach Brown was not pleased with his team’s transition defense either, noting they allowed Charlotte to “just dunk the ball” and “get layups.”
Brown was doing all he could to get their intensity back up. When guys were not defending, he would simply substitute them out of the game.
“I’m going to keep searching with lineups, players and try to play different guys at different times to see what I can get from guys, in terms of trying to get a sense of urgency,” Brown said.
Rookie Sergey Karasev was lazy getting back in transition, and consequently, Jeffrey Taylor was able to get an easy dunk. Coach Brown quickly asked for a timeout and gave Karasev an earful as he walked to the bench, who then did not go back in the game.
Brown said during the press conference that he planned to keep coaching the players through this and they intend to try and win some games while doing it.
Although play improved near the end of the fourth quarter, it was too little too late, as the Bobcats already built a big enough lead to hold on for the victory.
The disappearance of the Wine and Gold’s defense in the middle of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter allowed their first 30 minutes of competitive basketball to go to waste.
“We got to try and play the right way, and we did for most of the game,” Brown said. “I keep preaching to our guys we can’t play a 30-minute game or a 35-minute game. We have to play a 48-minute game no matter who you’re facing in this league, or you’re going to get beat.”
The Cavaliers will face the Washington Wizards Saturday in D.C. The Cavs (0-6 on the road) look to get their first victory away from home this season. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.