Cavaliers lose heart breaker to Nets 108-106  
   BY STONE LEXINGTON
 CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - When young NBA players are learning how to win in the league, the ability to defend home court can be one of the most important inherited principles.

The youthful Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a six-game homestand, which started in promising fashion with a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Hosting the Brooklyn Nets in the second game of the homestand on Monday night, the Cavs were seeking back-to-back victories for just the second time this season.

Unfortunately for the Cavs, Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie sank a game-winning jump shot in the final seconds that helped Brooklyn escape with a 108-106 victory in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Both teams played one another close throughout the evening, as the Cavs (5-12) were hampered without Kevin Love and the Nets (9-8) without Kyrie Irving. Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, while Cleveland led by a point at the end of the first quarter (26-25) and Brooklyn led by a point at halftime, 52-51.

The Nets took a six-point lead, the largest of the game to that point, into the fourth quarter. With a little more than a minute remaining and possession of the ball, the Cavs trailed by a slim 106-102 margin. Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson sank a three-pointer with 1:03 to play that brought Cleveland within a 106-105 deficit, and it seemed as if the momentum was in their favor.

Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie missed a layup on Brooklyn’s ensuing possession and proceeded to commit a crucial mistake on the Cavs’ next trip down the floor. Dinwiddie fouled Cavs shooting guard Collin Sexton with 21.5 seconds remaining, and Sexton drained the first of two free throws to tie the game at 106. The second free throw rimmed out, was knocked out of bounds and ultimately ruled to be Cavs ball.

The Cavs had the ball as time wound down in regulation, but failed to get a shot off before the shot clock expired with six seconds showing. Dinwiddie’s game-winner came to fruition moments later.

Larry Nance Jr. led Cleveland with 20 points and 13 rebounds, the 41st double-double of his career. Jordan Clarkson chipped-in 20 points, while second-year shooting guard Collin Sexton finished with 18 points (7-of-22 from the field), scoring in double-figures in his 40th straight contest.

Sexton, who was the primary point guard a season ago, continues to adjust to life without the ball in his hands as much now that rookie point guard Darius Garland has entered the fold.

“I think it’s still something that he is working through,” Beilein said about Sexton’s development this season. “I showed him a clip the other day where he didn’t have the ball in his hands…and he just stopped running. That’s I think the biggest thing, just running the floor when you don’t have the ball, sprinting when you have all that athleticism.”

The Cavs have been fairly balanced offensively this season with five players averaging at least 10 points per game (Garland, Clarkson, Thompson, Sexton, Love). One of the most surprising producers has been Thompson, who is averaging a career-high 14.9 points per game. Against Brooklyn, which is seeking a second straight playoff appearance, Thompson totaled seven points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s perfect when you have a team that you have five guys who can score, and we get away from him (Thompson) sometime trying to get him the ball,” Beilein said. “Frankly, I think we have to do a better job of getting him a touch closer to the basket so that’s it’s not a multi-dribble play. But he’s done a really good job.”

It’s difficult to win in the NBA if you can’t move the ball. The Cavs entered Monday as the second-worst team in the league in assists per game (19.7) behind only Portland (19.6). Garland leads the team with 3.2 assists per game, while no other Cavalier averages at least three assists. 

“We’ve talked at length about the number of passes we want to have,” Beilein said. “The pass per possession, 300 passes is the goal, so that’s three passes a possession. It wasn’t getting there.

“It’s nobody’s fault, it was just this recognition that the ball moving better is going to be better for us.”

The Nets totaled 29 assists to Cleveland’s 24 on Wednesday, while the Cavs had their hands full in the paint with Brooklyn center Jarrett Allen. Allen was a monster on Monday, totaling 22 points and 21 rebounds.

With the loss against Brooklyn, the Cavs fell to 3-5 at home this season. Their homestand continues against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
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​POSTED 11/26/2019 00:09
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