Atlanta- A familiar story was written Friday night in Miami. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Heat 118-94, American Airlines Arena has not been kind to Cleveland, a place they haven’t won in since 2010.
Things were competitive in the first half, but once again the Cavaliers doomed themselves by a disappointing 3rd quarter. Trailing by only four (56-52) heading into halftime, the Cavs got outscored by 11 points (26-17) out of the break. Watching the game it was obvious what the problem was, even when the Cavs were expecting it, the Heat zone gave Cleveland fits.
Eric Spolstra and company waited until after halftime to break into their 2-3 zone. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com did a great of breaking down the Cavs second half offensive struggles.
The Cavaliers knew going into the game Miami was going to play zone, the Heat use zone more than anyone in the league. Plus Cleveland has been struggling to shoot from the outside and tends to settle for deep twos, and in order to beat a zone you have to hit shots. After the game Cavs coach Larry Drew took the blame for the way his team attacked the zone in the second half, “I’ve got to be better at preparing us for the zone….Hopefully after tomorrows game, we have a couple days were we can really spend some days practicing against some zone. So we can be better.”
A usual suspect was the Cavaliers leading scorer Friday night, as Jordan Clarkson had 18 points. Clarkson echoed his coach after the game when talking about how the Cavs handled the Miami zone. “We didn’t make any shots tonight, we go some good looks we just didn’t knock them down. But at the same time we have to attack the zone as well, get in the paint, kick out and make the shots easier.”
The Cavaliers were held under 40 percent shooting as a team, the second time in as many games for the (8-28) Cavs. This season Cleveland is in the bottom five in terms of team shooting percentage at (44.2 percent.) This is a trend the Cavaliers hope to buck Saturday night against a team that has many of the same problems.
Atlanta Saturday Nights
State Farm Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
- Collin Sexton
- Alec Burks
- Jaron Blossomgame
- Cedi Osman
- Larry Nance Jr
- Kent Bazemore
- John Collins
- DeWayne Dedmon
- Trae Young
- Kevin Huerter
Saturday’s opponent is the Atlanta Hawks, a team the Cavs have already played twice this season. Atlanta won the first meeting between the two teams by 21 points, with the Cavs getting revenge nine days later with a 22 point victory of their own. Atlanta has won four out of their last five, including an OT win in Minnesota last night.
Losing games in the 3rd quarter has become somewhat of a problem for both the Cavaliers and Hawks. On the season the Cavs are the second worst team in the NBA (-2.7 points) out of the break. Only Atlanta (-4.4 points) is worse, who ironically only has two more wins than Cleveland. Despite the OT victory last night, the Hawks were out scored by 12 (30-18) in the third quarter. It will be interesting to see which team is able to make the right adjustments at halftime Saturday night.
One adjustment the Cavaliers will have to make is how they guard second year forward John Collins. Collins is a 6’10 power-forward averaging 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, despite missing the begging of the season. Over the course of the last 11 games Collins has 10 double-doubles, something that could cause a team with only two big men problems. It has not been announced if Ante Zizic will once again be out against the Hawks. Until Tristan Thompson returns in 2019 the Cavaliers front line will be down to only a few guys. Larry Drew talked about Miami physically wore the Cavs down in the second half last night, something they have to avoid tonight in Atlanta.
Saturday will mark the final meeting of the season between the first two point guards taken in last summers NBA draft. It will be the first time Collin Sexton and Trae Young will start against one another, as the last time they played George Hill was still starting.The Cavaliers rookie failed to scored 10 points for the third time eight games Friday night, so what better night to have a good game then against your fellow rookie.
Sexton appeared to have turned a corner a few weeks ago when he a streak of double digit games going, but since Milwaukee snapped it, the rookie has seemed to hit a wall. Since having his streak snapped, Sexton has averaged 10.8 points on just (32.7 percent) shooting, and just (12.5 percent) from three.
While things may seem bad right now for the Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson is hoping to return next week. A few weeks after that, the return of Kevin Love is expected. Cavs fans be patient this season as the young roster continues to mold, and dream of the NBA lottery in May.