CLEVELAND: There is a simple explanation as to why the Cavaliers’ brief two-game winning streak ended as quickly as it began. Their final five shots were jump shots, and four of the five were from 16 feet or longer.
It’s not just the distance, since the Atlanta Hawks were shooting from the outside by that point as well on their way to a 102-94 victory Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. The way Cavs coach Byron Scott saw it, the Hawks’ shots came within the flow of their offense. The Cavs simply dribbled down and made poor decisions.
The main two culprits were Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, who deserve much of the credit for keeping the Cavs in the game for most of the night. The two scorers combined for 46 points, but it was the long jumpers each of them took on consecutive possessions that put the Cavs in a bad spot.
First it was Irving, who temporarily gave the Cavs a 94-93 lead on the previous possession by driving to the rim with 2:53 left. The Hawks countered with a jumper from Jeff Teague.
Perhaps miffed that Teague was going off for a career-high 27 points, Irving tried responding on the next possession by heaving a 3-pointer from about 3 feet behind the line.
The miss turned into another Hawks basket. Waiters took his turn with a messy turnaround jumper from just inside the 3-point line and the Hawks again converted at the other end on a 3-pointer by Kyle Korver, giving them a 100-94 lead with 1:21 left and essentially sealing the victory.
In all, the Cavs went scoreless on their final five possessions, while the Hawks converted on four of their last five.
“Good example of youth vs. experience,” Scott said. “The last three minutes of the game, they did a heck of a job of running their offense. We settled on bad jump shots. That’s the biggest difference.”
Irving had 28 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Waiters contributed 18 points, six rebounds and four assists — although he missed all eight of his shots in the second half. As a rookie, Waiters’ shot selection has been shaky at times throughout the season. But more is expected of Irving, whose sensational 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer cut the Hawks’ lead to 55-54. Irving lost control of his dribble as he sprinted to beat the buzzer, yet still managed to fling a 40-foot line drive with one hand that sailed through the rim. It was the highlight of his night, but Scott acknowledged he was surprised to see Irving contributing to bad shots in the game’s final moments.
“Yeah, it was a little surprising,” he said.
Irving didn’t see it that way. He typically repeats many of Scott’s answers, but Irving was unaware or didn’t agree with Scott’s assessment that the Cavs took poor shots down the stretch. Asked if the Cavs settled for too many jumpers in the final three minutes, Irving said no.
“If we would have made them,” he said, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The Cavs stunned the Hawks, presently the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, with a victory at the buzzer late last month. They led by as many as nine on Friday and still held an 82-75 lead early in the fourth quarter in a back-and-forth game that included nine ties and 20 lead changes.
“Down the stretch, that’s usually the time I get aggressive,” Irving said. “I tried to be aggressive and make plays for our guys. We just couldn’t finish down the stretch.”
Tyler Zeller had 12 points and seven rebounds, but also had four turnovers. Tristan Thompson had eight points and eight rebounds, ending his double-double string at four games.
Daniel Gibson suffered a concussion in the second quarter and will now enter the NBA’s concussion program. He did not travel with the team to Brooklyn and will not play tonight against the Nets.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.