BROOKLYN, N.Y.: In order for the Cavs to slide into the playoffs in a few weeks, the feeling throughout the organization was they had to find a way to split against two of the best teams in the East this weekend.
After Friday’s 108-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, that leaves Sunday’s game against the conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
The Cavs couldn’t capitalize on the momentum of Wednesday’s win at the buzzer at Detroit, instead surrendering 14 3-pointers and allowing the Nets to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range in a disappointing loss.
The Nets’ smaller lineup forced Tristan Thompson to unsuccessfully chase Paul Pierce around the 3-point line in the first quarter. Pierce made all four of his 3-point attempts in the quarter to set the tone and the Cavs crumbled defensively. Pierce scored all 22 of his points in the first half, staking the Nets to a 61-50 halftime lead that wasn’t really threatened.
The Cavs never led after the Nets bolted out to a 12-2 lead to start the game, which unfortunately has become a staple of many Cavs games lately, and they spent the rest of the quarter digging themselves out.
They had the game tied going to the second, but the bench was ineffective at the start of the second quarter and the Nets scored the first 12 points to regain command. They never let it go, extending the lead to as many as 18 points.
The Cavs’ bench went scoreless in the first half, and aside from five rebounds by Anderson Varejao, contributed practically nothing in the half. Yet they still managed to pull within 82-77 on a dunk from Alonzo Gee in the final minute of the third quarter, but a big 3-pointer from Marcus Thornton on the Nets’ ensuing possession extended their lead to 85-77 entering the fourth.
Andray Blatche followed his long jumper by beating Spencer Hawes off the dribble for an easy lay-up and former Cav Shaun Livingston drove the middle of the lane for another dunk to bury any chance at another dramatic rally.
Dion Waiters, Wednesday’s hero with the shot at the buzzer, missed his first seven shots on Friday but still managed to finish with 20 points and five assists after catching fire in the second half. Luol Deng had 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists and Jarrett Jack had nine points and seven rebounds.
Spencer Hawes had 16 points and five rebounds and Thompson had 14 points and five rebounds.
The Cavs slipped back to 3.5 games behind the idle Atlanta Hawks with eight games to go. It won’t be easy, but their postseason hopes will be greatly aided if they can find a way to upset the Pacers on Sunday. The only problem: The Cavs have lost the last nine games in the series.