Cavaliers comeback falls well short in 118-103 loss to Timberwolves
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Mired in a losing season with trade rumors swirling around their star player, the Cleveland Cavaliers can take as many positives as possible right now. The Cavs entered Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Timberwolves amongst the bottom four teams in the league with only the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors having worse records.
Speaking of the Warriors, Cleveland’s classic series’ with Golden State seem like ages ago, as the Cavs have begun a youth movement toward building for the future. They have a starting backcourt stocked with two high lottery picks and several other fledglings that have shown real promise.
However, one of those promising players, rookie shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr., was hurt in the third quarter of the Cavs’ Sunday night matchup with Minnesota. The injury only added insult to a 118-103 Timberwolves beatdown of the Cavs in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“We just ran out of gas,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said. “Obviously, we were certainly affected by the loss of our two starters and our top rotation guy, but they’ve been going through that too. It’s a game we still could have won.”
When Porter Jr. suffered a left knee injury with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter, the Cavs trailed Minnesota 74-57. The score was only a microcosm of what played out in the first half, as Cleveland trailed 66-48 heading into halftime. Porter Jr. remained on the floor for several minutes, had to be slowly helped to the locker room and did not return.
“I think as we watch some of those wow moments that you see him do in practice or in games, you see the potential there,” Beilein said of Porter Jr.
The shorthanded Cavs were already without Tristan Thompson (illness), Larry Nance Jr. (left knee soreness) and Kevin Love, who sat out the second game of the back-to-back for rest. Love, who is in the first year of a four-year extension, has been the subject of trade rumors all season.
The night before, after a tough loss to Oklahoma City, Love vented his frustration about a play that happened just before halftime. And while his actions on the court against the Thunder could have been interpreted as showing his frustration, Love also reaffirmed after the game that he “loves his teammates.”
“I think we build relationships with all our guys that we can have side conversations with them and with Kevin as well, and then you just deal with it,” Beilein said. “What are the expectations for us, and we’re all going to get into frustration. We want to avoid it — it’s inevitable.
“People are going to get frustrated in games. That’s just how we end up dealing with it. The whole idea is what every coach will tell you — let’s take care of that in the locker room, let’s take care of that in the coach’s office and we all grow from it. But, it happens to everybody.”
Against Minnesota on Sunday, Cavs guard Collin Sexton finished with 19 points, while backcourt mate Darius Garland scored 14 points. Ante Zizic totaled a season-high 15 points and 12 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career.
“When you have adversity like this, it’s always exciting for young guys to have a shot,” Beilein said.
One of those players getting a shot is recent acquisition Dante Exum, who finished with a career-high 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field against the Timberwolves. The point guard scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half, sinking his fourth three-pointer of the game with 8:29 to play in the fourth quarter that helped bring Cleveland all the way back to a 97-96 lead.
Exum, though, exited the game less than two minutes later, and the Cavs didn’t score again until a John Henson tip in with 2:41 remaining in regulation. By the time of Henson’s tip in, the Cavs were already back down double digits.
“When you’re in this situation, which I’ve been in several times now…there’s going to be inevitable times that they seem like obstacles and they really are great teaching moments that you can spin around,” Beilein said.
Without star center Karl-Anthony Towns because of a left knee sprain, five Timberwolves picked up the slack and reached double-figures in scoring, led by Gorgui Dieng’s 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
The Cavs defeated the Timberwolves in Minnesota eight days earlier, but weren’t able to complete the season sweep over the Western Conference foe. They’ll attempt to snap their four-game losing skid on Tuesday at home against the Detroit Pistons.
POSTED 01/05/2020 22:25