Cavaliers suffer 99-96 heartbreaker at the Q
It was the clash of the point guards Saturday as the Cleveland Cavaliers accepted a 99-96 defeat to the New Jersey Nets at the Q.
The Cavs trailed by as many as 16 points earlier in the first half thanks to Deron Williams (27 points), whose hot hand not only shot 50 percent but also dished out 10 assists.
Not until the fourth quarter did the Cavs begin locking down on defense and hitting key shots, eventually outscoring New Jersey 35-27.
"In the last quarter, we played with tremendous energy…but we can't play that way," said head coach Byron Scott. "That's way too late."
Thirty-five seconds remained in the game as Kyrie Irving (32 points, six rebounds) drained a 3-pointer to inch Cleveland closer 96-89.
Fans filtered out of the arena despite the rookie's shot behind the arc; there were only 30 seconds left, and it would take a miracle for the Cavs to even tie it up at this point.
Ten seconds later and New Jersey was at the free-throw line. Cleveland was playing the fouling game—what else was there left to do if you don't want to throw in the towel just yet?
After two missed free-throws by the Nets, big man Anderson Varejao (four points, nine rebounds) swooshed his first and only shot—a long 2-pointer—with 17 seconds left. This, followed by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Irving in the final seconds of the game, left the final score at a gap of just three points.
The remaining fans in the Q cheered for the buzzer-beater as if it were the game winner, when in reality it just sealed the deal on the heartbreaking eleventh loss for the Cavs this season.
The difference was this—Williams was consistent all night. Irving had just 11 points after the third quarter, and posted an astonishing 21 points solely in the fourth quarter. He finished with only two assists.
"Deron Williams is a quiet assassin...he's one of those point guards that is just going to come at you and if you don't accept the challenge, he's going to tear you up and he was good tonight," Scott said.
Irving's fourth quarter performance wasn't enough to make up for shoddy defense played earlier, and it surely wasn't sufficient to get the Cavs over the hump.
"If we would have 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," Irving said. "We gave this one away."
After Saturday's loss, Cleveland's record dropped to 7-11. They played the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden Sunday at 6 p.m., and will host the Celtics Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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