Cavs Can't Complete Comeback
Wrap-Up – After returning from a successful road trip out West, the Cavaliers came home and dug themselves a 24-point hole against Dallas. They’d eventually rally to cut the Mavericks’ lead to just a deuce in the fourth quarter, but poor free throw shooting and execution down the stretch allowed Dallas to hang on for the 102-97 win on Monday afternoon at The Q.
Kyrie Irving notched 16 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter, going 10-for-27 overall from the floor and adding a team-high nine assists to go with a pair of steals. Anderson Varejao had another big rebounding game – doubling-up with 18 points and a game-high 21 boards. Tristan Thompson notched his fourth straight double-double with 19 points and 10 boards. Finally, Luol Deng, in his Quicken Loans Arena debut as a Cavalier, finished with 20 points –going 5-for-8 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the stripe.
The Wine and Gold had their chances in the closing moments of the Martin Luther King Day matinee. Varejao’s dunk with 5.7 seconds to play got the Cavs to within three, 100-97. Montae Ellis was fouled, but missed both free throws to keep it a one-possession game. But Cleveland was whistled for a five-second violation with 2.8 remaining. Ellis again was fouled and, this time, hit both attempts to ice the affair.
The Cavs came into Monday’s game with one of the top scoring benches in the Eastern Conference but only managed eight combined points against Dallas. Both teams shot 79 percent from the stripe, but Cleveland shot only 60 percent in the critical fourth quarter.
Turning Point – It’s natural for a team to come off a long roadie with a slight hangover and, for the Cavaliers, that headache set in at the start of the second quarter as Dallas shot 55 percent from the floor in the period, holding Cleveland to 24 percent. The Wine and Gold managed just 14 points in the period and found themselves behind down 22 at intermission. The Cavs outscored Dallas by nine in the third quarter and eight in the fourth, but could never quite get over the hump for the win.
Game Ball – Anderson Varejao & Tristan Thompson – The Cavaliers starting bigs have been a force for most of the month. Thompson has doubled-up in seven of his last eight games and – as he did on Friday – grabbed nine of his ten boards in the second half of Monday’s contest. All Varejao has done is average 11.0 points and 15.4 rebounds per game since the start of the New Year. On Monday, Andy added four assists and a pair of steals.
By the Numbers – 18.7, .500 … Scoring average and three-point shooting percentage for Luol Deng in six games with the Cavaliers. The two-time All-Star is also averaging 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per contest with Cleveland.
Quotable – Tristan Thompson, on the tale of two halves on Monday afternoon …
”In front of our home fans, the performance we had in the first half wasn’t acceptable for both ourselves and the organization. We wanted to show a little better than that. (In the second half,) we came out with some urgency and we came out with some fight.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers longest homestand of the season rolls on this week as they welcome Luol Deng’s old squad to The Q for a Central Division scrum on Wednesday night. On Friday, the Cavaliers face off against Milwaukee. The matchup with Chicago is the final meeting with the Bulls this season; Cleveland will face the Bucks just once more this season after Friday. On Sunday, Jeff Hornacek’s surprising Suns come to Cleveland and the Cavs wrap up the homestand the following Tuesday night against the Pelicans.