The Cavaliers didn't lose this game when Daniel Gibson's final shot of the night bounced off the rim. They lost it slowly and methodically over the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Nets ended with 52 points in the paint by pounding away at the Cavs' interior defense late, making 11 of their last 12 shots. Eight of those 11 were from 11 feet and in. Conversely, the Cavs also scored 52 points in the paint, but took just four shots from inside 10 feet over the final eight minutes. Stop penetrating, give up baskets inside. Perfect formula for disaster.
Byron Scott credited the Nets' defense for cutting off the Cavs' penetration late, but for the first time this season, I disagree with him. I saw the Cavs settling for a lot of jumpers when there was still time remaining on the shot clock. I saw the Cavs stop trying to work the ball inside as well as they did in the first half.
The Cavs' defense in the first half was actually pretty good. They created turnovers, forced a shot clock violation and stayed active. The Nets had more open looks in the second half, they're just not a very good team and struggled knocking them down -- until the game's final few minutes.
This one hurts, probably worse than all the rest. The Cavs led much of the night and were up seven 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter. This was a game they could've -- and should've -- won. But they haven't figured out yet how to close out a victory.
Scott's reasoning has been the Cavs are stocked with young players that don't know how to take a game yet and finish it. But the guys on the floor in the fourth quarter were all veterans: Ramon Sessions, Joey Graham, Gibson, Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson and Ryan Hollins.
Samardo Samuels and Manny Harris left the game with eight minutes left and the Cavs up four. They never returned. Christian Eyenga didn't play in the fourth quarter and Alonzo Gee didn't play at all. The Cavs' veterans were the ones that lost this game. That makes it even harder to take.
Antawn Jamison 26 points, eight rebounds
Daniel Gibson 19 points, five assists
Ramon Sessions 16 points, six assists
Joey Graham 14 points
Brook Lopez 28 points, seven rebounds
Devin Harris 14 points, 10 assists
Anthony Morrow 16 points
More of a game-winner than a turning point. Brook Lopez backed Ryan Hollins down and swished a 6 footer over top of him for the game winner.
The Cavs scored 52 points in the paint, but took just four shots inside of 10 feet over the game's final eight minutes.
They said it
"If that shot goes, a lot of things are different. My teammates might have a smile on their face. The fans back home can put a smile on their face. That shot carried a lot of weight." -- Daniel Gibson, on missing the shot at the buzzer
The Cavs (8-36) are at Boston (33-10) at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.