Cavaliers Begin Three Game Road Trip 0-2; Losses to New Orleans and San Antonio
Cavaliers @ New Orleans Hornets
The Cavaliers traveled to New Orleans on Friday night to take on the 9-1 Hornets. With their road record much better than their home record, the Cavs knew they were capable of handling the pressure that awaited them.
Starting off the game, the energy was definitely there, but their cold and unproductive second quarter cost them the game. Cleveland ended up playing catch-up throughout the entire second half and despite a well-fought contest the Cavaliers fell short 108-101.
After the first quarter, the score was close at 28-26, with New Orleans trailing by two. Even though Cleveland was rushing the offense and had one too many turnovers, Antawn Jamison had 11 points in that quarter to make up for silly mistakes. Joey Graham also came to the rescue on the offensive end, keeping the score close.
This intensity didn't last long though, and during the second quarter the Cavaliers went ice cold. Misses would result in the Hornets hitting threes almost every time down the stretch.
We were leaving their best shooters like Marco Belinelli (20 points), Chris Paul (15 points, 10 assists), and David West (34 points, 11 rebounds) wide open. The Hornets were attacking the basket and executing their offense because of the lack of pressure being put on them. They were too comfortable, which is an advantage Head Coach Byron Scott did not want them to have.
"The biggest thing we have to do is switch up the defenses so he (Chris Paul) doesn't get comfortable," Scott said before the game.
Offensively, the Cavaliers were attempting to drive inside and get some good looks but just couldn't get a run on New Orleans. The Hornets suffocated Cleveland with excellent defense and outscored the Cavs 18-2 in the last five minutes of the second quarter. Leaving the half shooting just 32 percent and down 62-43, the Cavs had a 19-point deficit to make up for in the second half.
The Hornets continued to outscore the Cavaliers in the third quarter. The Cavs couldn't keep the momentum going any time they'd score; the Hornets' shooters were on fire and whenever we'd make a small run, they'd come right back on the other end and score on our lazy defense.
Paul had several aggressive steals and even when a New Orleans turnover created a Cavaliers opportunity, we managed to lose the ball. Towards the end of the third the Cavs got a few defensive stops and decreased the deficit to 13 points.
The fourth quarter was a roller coaster ride; the Cavs were angry and frustrated, which didn't end up playing out in their favor.
Opening the quarter with a flagrant-two foul was Graham, who raked West in the face and was ejected. Ryan Hollins was assessed a flagrant-one foul, giving the Hornets more possessions and chances at the line. In the long run, this would come to hurt the Cavaliers.
They had a chance in the closing minutes, with Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker hitting threes. Andy Varejao (10 points, 13 rebounds) was getting the tip-ins on missed jumpers and Jamison was fouled outside the arc, making all three of the pressure free throws.
The Cavs found themselves down by only four points with a little over a minute left, but the Hornets continued to drain their shots. Both teams continued to foul each other back and forth and it was a game of catch-up for the Cavs; their energy in the fourth was undeniable but too little too late. Even though their bench scored an NBA high this season (65 points), they could not make up for the slip-ups early.
Cavaliers @ San Antonio Spurs
The Cavaliers continued their road trip with a stop in San Antonio at an attempt to beat the Spurs on Saturday. They won three of their last four meetings against the Spurs, who have not won a season series against the Cavaliers since 2004-05.
Unfortunately, the Cavs would have to start the 2010 season against San Antonio with a tough loss, 116-92.
To say the second half was a problem for the Cavaliers is an understatement. Now, the Spurs are amazing shooters from anywhere on the court. They shot 56 percent in the first half, and we began to cool them down a bit with some effective defense. But that didn't last long, and the Spurs got too comfortable taking those killer shots and going inside.
That's the problem that the Cavs are having lately on the defensive end: they allow the offense to get too comfortable. There isn't enough pressure and they're allowing the offense to drive on them.
Tony Parker (19 points, nine rebounds) was dishing out the ball to open players under the basket, too quick for the Cavaliers to think about defending them.
Matt Bonner (12 points) hit four for seven from three-point range, and the Cavs just can't let that happen. This team is known for being able to hit the shot, so why are they being left wide open?
The fourth quarter played out the same way, with the Spurs continuing to run circles around the Cavs offensively. Ryan Hollins was ejected in the fourth quarter for a flagrant-two, making that twice in two games that a Cavalier was ejected for an aggressive foul.
It's hard to believe the Cavs let all of their first half achievements go to waste. Mo Williams (21 points, nine for 15 shooting) was running, and I mean running, the floor better than we've seen all season. Not only was he attacking the basket and hitting the jumper, he was getting other players involved with his six assists. We also were pressuring the Spurs defensively and even though they still shot pretty well, we weren't giving up too many points. The Cavaliers led by one after the first quarter.
Along with Mo, Antawn Jamison did some damage in the second quarter with eight points (12 total). He's been feeling the jumper ever since his return from the injury, averaging almost 16 points per game.
Cleveland was moving the ball with quick, clean passes and drawing contact by cutting to the basket. They also were out-rebounding 22 to San Antonio's 16 by halftime. They hit five for six on three pointers and had 12 second-chance points in the first half.
Obviously, the Cavs' offense began to stagnate after the first half while the Spurs continued to score. They were sluggish on the defensive end and couldn't seem to stop the Spurs from scoring.
Like the loss at New Orleans, their frustration played out in San Antonio's favor and their winning mentality vanished. They lost all of the intensity and fundamentals that they came out with in the first half, and let the game slip right from their hands.
Cleveland takes on Indiana, Tues @ 7pm.
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