Dribbles: Another Late Run Can't Make Up for Cavs' Lethargic Start

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 108-97 home loss to the Miami Heat.

1. For one half, all of the Cavaliers' worst nightmares came to life. They looked too small, too slow and too lethargic for much too long.

2. Things didn't go much better in the third quarter. All they did then was cut a 22-point halftime deficit to 20. So, hey, why not just mail it in, call it a night and try to get the next one?

3. Well, that's not really the style of this team. Just as soon as the fairly sparse crowd was ready to leave, the Cavs started to make things interesting.

4. Problem was, by the time the Cavs really got going ... you guessed it. It was a little too late.

5. Basically, all the things everyone said about this team before the season came to life in the first half, and not in a good way.

6. But these are the new Cavs and they are starting to be known for not quitting. They had every reason to on this night, because the Heat’s lead had swelled to 27.

7. Cavs coach John Beilein: "That was a complete mismatch in ball movement and defense (in the first half). The second half was much better, but it was way too much to overcome."

8. Nor could the Cavs knock down the biggest of shots when the need called for it. Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Matthew Dellavedova and Jordan Clarkson each missed a fairly open 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. A make on any would have cut the deficit to single digits. 

9. So that was the story. The basket was a little too small and the energy a little too lacking, and now the Cavs (4-7) get a couple days of rest and practice, and some time to work on it. 

10. Miami (8-3) did nearly everything it wanted in the first half -- passing, cutting, scoring inside, drilling threes. The Cavs did nothing to combat that beyond just sort of stand around and watch.

11. At times, it seemed as if the Heat had six guys on the floor, the Cavs four. Beilein warned there would be nights like these. "They're a really good team," he said. "There's a reason why they're 8-3 and there's a reason we're 4-7. We've got a lot of work to do."

12. Beilen made his rounds in the locker room after the game. He first walked over to Jordan Clarkson for a short and friendly chat, then saw Larry Nance Jr. and asked how Nance's thumb felt. (Nance aggravated the already painful thumb on a second-half dunk.) Point is, the coach never gives up on his team and maybe that explains why it doesn't give up on him.

13. Nance on the night: "In the first half, they were just running freely and getting what they wanted. In the second half, we started bumping cutters and challenging shots."

14. Love had another strong night with 21 points and 10 rebounds. But the Cavs' other veteran leader, Tristan Thompson, never got into swing of things. 

15. Thompson attempted a measly three shots, scored two points and collected three rebounds. Perhaps his best game of the season (Tuesday at Philadelphia) was followed by undoubtedly his worst. But this is the NBA and that’s the way it sometimes goes.

16. The Cavs also allowed the Heat to shoot a sizzling 40 percent on threes. "We have to have more dog in us," Beilein said of defending 3-pointers. "We get to where we hope people miss, but we need to make them miss. We don't have great length to bother shooters, so we need to have great effort."

17. Collin Sexton added 15 points, Nance played an all-around game with 14 and five boards, and Cedi Osman scored 12. Darius Garland also got going a little with 11 points, making three threes in third.

18. The Heat were excellent in terms of execution and balance, and look like a true Eastern Conference contender. They were led by Kendrick Nunn's 23 points. What a season it has been for the undersized shooting guard, who was basically clinging to NBA life support before the season.

19. Beilein's closing thoughts: "In the second half, we used more of a swarming defense when we made that run. But they were just too good, too solid to let us get a victory."

20. Next up: The Cavs host the 76ers in a Sunday matinee. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.