Dec 14, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) is pressured by Miami Heat small forward Shane Battier (31) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers fight off 19-point deficit, still fall short to Miami Heat

Down by 10 points midway through the second quarter, Cleveland Cavaliers (9-14) power forward Tristan Thompson took a few giant steps in the lane and then lifted off for what would seem to be an easy two points. However, that wasn’t the case. Miami Heat (17-6) forward Shane Battier followed Thompson closely from behind, jumping as soon as Tristan did for an attempt at blocking the Clevelander’s shot. Battier did so, but caught some of Thompson’s hand in the process. But that resulted in a no-call by the officiating crew and a missed attempt by TT.

Furious with how the refs had called the game up to this point, head coach Mike Brown ran out onto the court, got in the face of the referees and was subsequently thrown out of the game for continuing his on-court rant. Cleveland’s strong start in the first quarter quickly dissipated, and the Wine & Gold went into the half trailing by 16 points.

Although Cleveland could never fully complete the comeback to bring home a victory following a deficit that reached 19 points at one point in the third quarter, the Cavs staged a ferocious comeback in the third frame and beginning of the fourth quarter. However, the team eventually fell to 2-11 on the road, falling to the Heat by a 114-107 mark at American Airlines Arena.

The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh tallied 53 of Miami’s 68 first-half points, outscoring the entire Cleveland squad over that same amount of time by one point. It was one of the most balanced games by the trio, as they contributed 62.3 percent of Miami’s total points and shot a combined 63.6 percent from the field. Those are some impressive numbers and expected from the Big Three of the Heat, but if Cleveland stood any chance of leaving Florida with two road wins, they needed to limit at least one member of the three-pronged attack. That didn’t happen, and Cleveland paid for it trip after trip down the court in the form of Bosh mid-rangers, LeBron penetrations and Wade’s circus moves.

But here are the most important numbers from tonight’s contest: 14 first-half turnovers and one second-half turnover. Whoa. What an incredible difference. Trying to keep up with the pace that the Heat were pushing the game at early on doomed Cleveland, but they had no other choice if they wanted to avoid an uphill battle from the start. Miami is just much more proficient at spreading the ball around with smart passing. Players like Ray Allen have their key spots on the floor, and now that this team is so familiar with each other, moving the ball around is just second nature at this point. The Cavaliers found out firsthand how dangerous the Heat can be when this method is working at its zenith, but the Wine & Gold stayed resilient throughout.

This resilience resulted in Cleveland holding Miami to 16 third-quarter points, as Alonzo Gee, Thompson and Irving initiated the comeback. They then passed the torch off to the likes of Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Dion Waiters and Matthew Dellavedova, who took up the challenge of shutting down the Heat and inching back with great perimeter shooting, leading by as much as four points with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. However, Miami went on a 23-12 run to end the game, crushing Cleveland’s hope of a comeback.

The Wine & Gold will try to rebound from a loss against a very good team against another very good team in the Portland Trail Blazers (20-4). Portland is excellent wherever they play this season, currently boasting an away record of 10-2. They most recently crushed the 76ers on the road, making a jaw dropping franchise-record-breaking 21 of 37 threes (56.8 percent) and scoring 139 points on Saturday. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

ROSTER ANALYSIS

STARTERS

PG Kyrie Irving – 31 minutes, 6 of 16 shooting from the field (37.5 percent), 3 of 9 shooting from three (33.3 percent), 19 points, four steals, three assists

Kyrie had his stroke going for him early on in the game but was removed from the game for some time early on in the second quarter. Whether that was because of what many thought was becoming an insurmountable lead or because his shot went cold near the middle of the first half, I don’t know, but I do think that Irving tried to do too much toward the end of the game. This took away from players like Jack, Waiters and Clark who were on a roll. Irving needs to start realizing trends like these, as teams love to close in on him toward the end of games because of his big-play capabilities.

SG C.J. Miles – 13 minutes, 1 of 4 shooting from three, five points

Another ineffective outing from Mr. Miles, but I can’t complain if Dion keeps on playing like this off of the bench. But two turnovers in 13 minutes? Yuck. There was a moment sometime in the second quarter that Miles just stepped out of bounds when Cleveland was down 15. Pretty much defined the second quarter. Turnovers like the one mentioned above changed the course of the game in the second quarter, so Miles was, once again, a nonfactor.

SF Alonzo Gee – 26 minutes, 4 of 10 shooting from the field, 10 points, five rebounds

I saw a lot of intensity on the court from Gee tonight, and that’s what we should expect out of Gee every night. He’s not going to pad the stat sheets by any means (I’ve accepted that by now), but, as Brown points out almost on a nightly basis, he brings it on defense and hustles harder than anyone on the Cavs. This is especially true on the break, which was pivotal for both teams in this contest. His effort is reflected by his +3 +/- rating, the second highest on the Cavaliers roster Saturday night.

PF Tristan Thompson – 26 minutes, 6 of 14 shooting from the field (42.9 percent), 4 of 7 shooting from the free throw line (57.1 percent), 16 points, seven rebounds

Tristan had a relatively quite night, and I think that’s because every time he went up in the paint, it seemed like a Miami Heat player was denying him. In fact, three of his eight misses were because of blocked shots by the Heat. This shows me that he hasn’t progressed from the same player who was blocked the most times in the NBA last season. It’s not the hesitation, though. He needs to have stronger ups if he wants to be a dominant big in the paint. Still not there yet, and this game highlighted the problem areas for TT.

C Andrew Bynum – 18 minutes, 2 of 2 shooting from the field, four points, four rebounds

Something must be up. Back-to-back 18-minute nights from Bynum. I think something is bothering the Cleveland big. Better to be safe than sorry, though.

BENCH STAR

SG Dion Waiters – 35 minutes, 5 of 11 shooting from the field (45.4 percent), 2 of 4 shooting from three, 4 of 4 shooting from the free throw line, 16 points, three rebounds

Aggressive Dion is good for Cleveland. Watching him drive to the hole and actually finish at the rim is a relief for Wine & Gold fans, and watching him do this in crucial minutes was a leap in the right direction for young Dion’s confidence. Waiters is currently the Cavalier that I’m most pleased with in regards to how he has played as of late. Ever since the remarks he made after the Atlanta game about this team needing a kick in the butt early on in games, he’s been focused. Focused on this team, focused on making the most beneficial plays and, most importantly, focused on winning ball games.

COACH’S CORNER:

So Coach Brown was kicked out of this one after a double technical was called on him midway through the second quarter. You can see the video and reasoning here, because I want to talk about the job that head assistant coach Jim Boylan did rallying this team in the second half. Watching the telecast from my couch, color analyst Fred McLeod pointed out how attentive the Cavaliers were to Boylan during the huddle following Brown’s ejection. Focus, as I mentioned above, was the most important thing for the Cavaliers if they wanted to make a game out of this double-digit deficit. Something must have triggered these guys in the locker room, because they came out and fought. Well done, Cavaliers coaching staff. High fives all around.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Mike Brown Tristan Thompson

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