If one just checked Friday night’s boxscore, it’d be hard to imagine the Cavaliers losing.
They dominated New Jersey in the paint, on the boards and on the fastbreak. They out-shot the Nets from the floor, had 10 more rebounds, just two more turnovers and Cleveland’s young star finished with a career-high 32 points.
But the game isn’t played in the boxscore, and in the actual matchup, the Cavaliers were primarily listless for the first three-and-a-half quarters before rallying in the final seven minutes. By then, it was a case of too little, too late as the Wine and Gold fell to the Nets, 99-96, on Friday night at The Q.
The Cavaliers never led on Friday night and, midway through the fourth quarter, found themselves down by 17 points.
At that point, sensational rookie Kyrie Irving completely took over the affair – scoring 21 points in the final 6:21 of the game. In the fourth quarter, the former Dukie was 8-of-9 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long-distance. He was 3-of-4 from the stripe with two boards and a steal.
“If we would of played with the same assertiveness that we played with in the last seven minutes of the game, it would have been a totally different turnout for us,” lamented Irving. “We gave this one away.”
Irving’s monster fourth-quarter effort was part of a 35-point final period for the Cavs. Unfortunately, they scored just 37 in the entire first stanza.
“I didn’t think we came out with the energy that we needed,” said Coach Byron Scott. “In the last quarter, we played with tremendous energy…but we can’t play that way. That’s way too late. If we don’t come out and play aggressively and with that type of energy from start to finish, we’re going to keep having these up and down type games.”
Aside from Kyrie’s big outing, Antawn Jamison pitched in with 20 points on 8-for-18 shooting. The only other Cavalier in double-figures was Ramon Sessions with 11 points off the bench.
The Nets were led by the backcourt combination of Deron Williams and Anthony Morrow, who combined for 49 points, 12 assists and eight boards. Once again, the Cavaliers had no answer for Kris Humphries, who doubled-up with 18 points and 11 boards.
The Wine and Gold travel to Beantown on Sunday for the first half of a home-and-home series with the Celtics that concludes Tuesday at The Q.