Cavs Drop Thriller to Spurs
Wrap-Up – In the final game of the season’s first half, the young Cavaliers proved they could go toe-to-toe with the NBA’s best. The Spurs had the last laugh, with Kawhi Leonard canning a corner three with 2.9 to play to give San Antonio the 96-95 win. But the Wine and Gold showed that they can hang with the class of the league even when their top player has an off night.
Leonard’s three-pointer came on the heels of Dion Waiters’ dramatic step-back 20-footer that gave Cleveland the 95-93 lead with just 9.9 to play. After San Antonio took the lead back on Leonard’s trey, the Cavaliers had one final chance. But Kyrie Irving’s jumper fell short to send Byron Scott’s improving squad into the All-Star Break with a tough loss to swallow.
Waiters led the Cavaliers with 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting. Fellow rookie Tyler Zeller followed up, snapping out of a funk with 16 points – two more points than he’d notched in his two previous outings combined. Zeller, along with Marreese Speights, led Cleveland with nine boards. Tristan Thompson and C.J. Miles pitched in with 10 points apiece.
Turning Point – In a game that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes, the game’s turning point didn’t come until the closing moments. Kyrie’s free throws put Cleveland ahead, 93-90, with 1:48 to play. But Gary Neal’s bomb tied the game 22 seconds later. The ensuing possessions saw Waiters and Leonard exchange buckets, with the latter getting the best of the ballgame with his decisive three-pointer.
Game Ball – Dion Waiters With his backcourt partner struggling through a 2-for-15 shooting night, Waiters took the weight – scoring 10 of his team-high 20 points in the third quarter, adding four assists, six boards and a steal. This past June’s No. 4 overall pick went 8-for-15 from the floor on Wednesday and is 14-for-21 over his last two contests.
By the Numbers – 21.3 … average point differential in Spurs’ victories since 2010-11. On Wednesday, it took a last-second three-pointer for San Antonio to beat Cleveland by one with Kyrie Irving notching just six points.
Quotable – Tristan Thompson, on Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss to the Spurs …
“We beat ourselves; it wasn’t anything that they did. We felt that we made mental errors down the stretch; that’s what makes this loss hurt even more. We don’t feel like they beat us, we feel like we beat ourselves. We’ve got to take it and learn from it.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers close out a see-saw end to the season’s unofficial first half heading towards the All-Star Break. When they return on a week from Wednesday, they’ll face off against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets in a special start time – 8 p.m. – as the Wine and Gold make a nationally-televised appearance. That contest wraps up the Cavaliers’ seven-game homestand. They then travel to Orlando, Miami and Chicago before closing out the month of February at The Q against Toronto.