Nine final thoughts resulting from a thrilling, crushing loss to the Mavs on Monday.
1. First thought goes to Dr. King. Several games had afternoon tip-offs (Monday was the first MLK Day matinee at Quicken Loans Arena) and many players around the league wore purple shoes to honor him. Jarrett Jack recited a short piece over the PA before the game. And at halftime, the Cavs played a tribute video in which several players read Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech. It drew some nice cheers from the crowd and chills from me.
2. The Cavs lost a game tonight in a way that you just can't lose games. Coming out of a timeout, they fought all the way back from a 24-point deficit to still have a shot to tie the game at the buzzer, down 100-97 with 2.8 seconds left. And Jarrett Jack was called for a 5-second violation. Barring an injury, that's the absolute worst-case scenario to not even get the ball into play.
3. Mike Brown said several times in the post game presser that Kyrie Irving, who was supposed to get the ball on the weak side, was "wide open," but that Jack couldn't see him. He seemed angry that the opportunity was there and the Cavs couldn't connect. Kyrie refused to put any blame on anyone. Brown didn't do that, but he did several times say that Irving was open.
4. It was an interesting decision to have Jack (6-foot-3) inbound the ball over Luol Deng (6-foot-9), who Brown said was the other option. Brown explained that Jack had done a nice job and was "heady" veteran, and he wanted Deng to have the ability to pop out if the screen for Irving failed and attempt a 3-pointer. The problem was Brandan Wright, the Mavs' 6-foot-10 forward who made maybe the play of the entire game by jumping up and down 6-7 times and blocking Jack's view of Irving.
5. Losing on a 5-second violation will stand out from this game, as it should. But the Cavs came out so flat and nearly pulled off a 24-point comeback against a pretty good Western Conference team. Brown, on Sunday, warned of a let-down following the road trip. He was right. It was, to be frank, surprising that the Cavs were able to find their legs and fight back.
6. When Kyrie gets hot, good Lord is he fun to watch. He caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 16 points on 6-9 shooting. One of those three misses was a 3-point heat-check that had he made, would have blown the roof off the Q. The problem is he went 1-of-8 in the fourth quarter while Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao's hustle plays (eight offensive rebounds in the final quarter between them) saved the Cavs.
7. Irving had all the momentum. He couldn't miss. Then Dion Waiters hoisted a contested 3 from the corner (he went 0-4 Monday and was a non-factor), the Mavs got a quick dunk and the momentum was gone. Irving wasn't the same once that was lost. He can't shoot it every time down the floor, but when he's that hot, other players taking bad shots is not a great idea. Had Kyrie's run lasted a few minutes longer the Cavs really might have caught up to Dallas.
8. This game was Kyrie, Thompson, Varejao and Deng. And that's it. Jack scored six points but couldn't get the ball inbounded. C.J. Miles had six points too but was 2-of-7 shooting. Earl Clark was 1-of-6 for two points. The Cavs' bench was outscored by Dallas' 33-8. Irving had his run in the third quarter. Deng had 20 points. Thompson and Varejao were going 100 miles an honor, banging around for offensive rebounds. They just needed a little support elsewhere and didn't get it.
9. I've covered three Cavs games this season. Those would be the home games against the Bobcats, Pistons and Mavs. If you're paying attention, those might be the worst three first-half performances of the season, definitely the worst three at home. At halftime, I turned to some other writers and said, "I think it's me." The response that came back wasn't support, it was, " Yeah, I think you're right." To you Cavs fans, I am so sorry.