Another great effort by the Cleveland Cavaliers (11-23, 9-8 home), but how many more moral victories can this team take? On Sunday night, the Cavaliers battled the Indiana Pacers (27-6, 11-5 away) in a slop fest (Indiana shot 36 percent from the field, Cleveland shot 34) tough to the end, but came up short, 82-78. The Cavaliers were missing Kyrie Irving for a third straight contest, and even their backup point guard, Jarrett Jack, because of back spasms, but were resilient against the best the Eastern Conference has to offer. It’s nice seeing this team show effort when last year they would’ve folded in most double-digit-deficit situations. But the offense has just been horrendous overall this season, as tonight was the fourth time this team scored under 80 points on the season.
Key Play to the Game
At the 7:35 mark in the game, Indiana center Roy Hibbert converted on his second of two free throw attempts. From that point until there was 2:44 left in the regulation, the Cavaliers—I mean, Dion Waiters—went on a 9-0 run to send the Q into a fury. The Cavaliers, down double digits just minutes before, were looking at a 75-74 score and an outside chance at winning this thing. Dion stayed hot after three made jumpers on three straight possessions, and then followed it up with a three-pointer to cut it to a one-point game. Before that possession, Varejao beautifully read a pass to Hibbert, stole the ball, fought for the ball after his team almost lost it on the ensuing possession, swung it to C.J. Miles and then to Dion for his 12th point of the final quarter. However, poor design on the final two Wine & Gold possessions resulted in a loss, but it was a valiant comeback for a team missing two of their top four scorers.
Wine & Gold MVP
The Cavs played very physical Sunday night against one of the toughest teams in the League. Matching their intensity through and through, Cleveland was able to keep the game close, never being out of reach despite going down 16 points early on in the fourth quarter. It was surprising enough that the Wine & Gold were playing the Pacers physically on D—which was also the case for the first three quarters in Indiana on New Year’s Eve—but, even without Kyrie Irving (for a third straight night) and Jarrett Jack, the Cavs exposed Indiana’s rugged D despite shooting around 35 percent as a team all night long. This was done by attacking the rim, thus getting to the foul line, and using sharp shooters such as Matthew Dellavedova to their advantage. C.J. Miles was the player that led this charge, scoring 15 first-half points (6 of 7 from the field) and getting gritty with the Pacers’ defense. C.J. finished 8 of 13 from the field for 21 points. He also logged six boards (three offensive) and three steals. Tuff effort, as it seems like the bulldog effort that guys like Andy and Matthew Dellavedova show on the court every night. Very nice bounce-back game after a poor night against Brooklyn, C.J.
None of #Cavs front office members in their usual seats. Something must be up.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) January 5, 2014
When he’s playing well, there are few players I enjoy watching more than dion Waiters.
— Demetri I. (@demeatloaf) January 5, 2014
Cavs rebounding is OFF THE CHAIN Cavs 17, Pacers 9 in the first quarter. Makes up for that 30% FG shooting, somewhat
— WayneEmbrysKids (@WayneEmbrysKids) January 5, 2014
As handicapped as the #Cavs are right now, I can’t take a moral victory tonight. They have to win.
— Joseph Mastrantoni (@DCFJoe) January 6, 2014
God damned Earl Clark.
— realcavsfans.com (@realcavsfans) January 6, 2014
Coach Brown Breakdown
Miles could have played all 48 minutes without missing a step if he wanted to Sunday. But, Brown decided yet again to let Alonzo Gee be Alonzo Gee at the three (16 minutes) and played Earl Clark for 18more minutes than he has merited with his performances over the past few games. If you’re obsessed with these four-guard lineups, Coach Brown, at least use them with the players who are helping the team score and limiting the opposing team’s offense. With the players that are available and are performing at a high-intensity level on a nightly basis (and even at a competent level), why not try C.J. out at the three when Clark and Gee combined for 0 of 11 on the night?
The Cavaliers will be playing at home for the last time over the next 13 days Tuesday evening before a five-game break from Quicken Loans Arena. The Philadelphia 76ers will be matching up with Cleveland for the third time this season and the second time at the Q. The previous matchup between these two teams was a double-overtime thriller that resulted in a 127-125 Wine & Gold victory. With both teams riding the struggle bus since then, it will be a battle of the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 7.