Slow start leaves Cavaliers gasping instead of gunning

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For the first two quarters, it was run-and-go-nowhere for the Cavaliers.

Then in the third, it was run-and-gun and have lots of fun.

Then came the fourth, when it was run-and-gasp as the Cavs played the role of the Team in Search of an Oxygen Tank in their 123-110 loss to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

How bad were things at the beginning? How about a 14-0 run by the Blazers to start the game?

How bad were they in the first half? Try a 23-point deficit.

How good did they eventually become? The Cavs cut the deficit to 92-90. They kept it close until about 4 minutes remained. After that, the Cavs ran out of gas and the Blazers showed why they're a top four-team in the West.

But these are the types of positive lessons the Cavs (14-47) are learning in this season of development. As an added bonus, they did nothing to make their draft position worse.

The key, though, is not giving up, giving in or going in the wrong direction in terms of general toughness and culture.

"I thought we did a good job fighting back, but you have to exert a lot of energy,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. “They really shot the ball well and we didn’t do a good enough job defending the 3-point line.

"The effort was there. Minus the start, I thought we played a pretty good basketball game.”

Perhaps no one was a better example of that than swingman Cedi Osman, who failed to record a single stat in the first quarter -- then finished with a team-high 27 points and seven rebounds.

Osman is in only his second season, and after hitting a wall midway through the year, has emerged as someone who has the Cavs feeling excited.

“I thought Cedi really played exceptional,” Cavs power forward Kevin Love said. “I told him he’s free flowing -- either he’s playing downhill, he has his shot, or he gets off the ball and gets it back. That’s really helping us."

Guard Jordan Clarkson added 19 points off the bench and Love finished with 18 points and 12 boards. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton scored 11, but went just 3-of-14 shooting and had but one assist.

Read: The process marches on.

“We showed a lot of heart in fighting back,” Love said. “We were saying how it didn’t feel like a double-digit loss. It just got away from us a little bit there at the end.”

Canton GlenOak product and veteran guard C.J. McCollum erupted for 35 points for the Blazers (37-23), including 7-of-8 shooting on threes.

"I had about 60-100 people here," McCollum said. "They spent a lot of money on tickets and drove in for the game, so I figured I had to give them something tonight."

Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard added 21 points and a game-high eight assists.

The Cavs return to action Thursday on the road against the New York Knicks, also in the fight of their lives for the No. 1 overall draft pick.