INDEPENDENCE: One day after the biggest collapse in franchise history, Cavs coach Byron Scott said he struggled to sleep Wednesday night. The Cavs led the defending champions by 27 points with 19 minutes left, yet managed to let the game slip away.
Answers and explanations were in short supply for a Cavs team that has lost three games this season in which they led by at least 20 points. They’re the first team to do that since the 2009-10 Los Angeles Clippers, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That Clippers team finished 29-53 and fired coach Mike Dunleavy halfway through the season.
But it’s worse than that.
According to Elias, 1,319 teams have led at home by at least 27 points in the second half since the start of the 2000-01 season. This is just the fourth time the home team lost the game.
“Our guys competed, we just had a few lulls against a team that you can’t have lulls against,” Scott said, pointing to the last five minutes of the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth. “You just can’t have those dry periods against them.”
Once the Heat’s shooters such as Shane Battier and LeBron James began finding the mark, Scott did little to slow the momentum.
Battier hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the third quarter and the Cavs’ offense began misfiring, but the Cavs played on without a timeout. Before Daniel Gibson’s 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, the Cavs had just one basket over the final 5:08 of the third quarter as the Heat came storming back.
Battier deferred to James to begin the fourth, and he made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points within the first 2½ minutes. The Heat shot 6-of-10 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and 10-of-19 in the second half.
“We gave them five wide open 3s,” Scott said, “and they took advantage of every one of them.”
Tyler Zeller had five points and two rebounds in the first five minutes of the third quarter, then was pulled because of foul trouble. He played less than two minutes the rest of the night. Scott said it was because of matchup issues.
The game was interrupted with 8:21 left when 21-year-old James Blair ran on the court wearing a handmade shirt asking James to return to Cleveland in 2014, when he can again be a free agent.
As it turns out, the dash onto the court was apparently premeditated. He had previously written on his Twitter account he would run out on the court during the game, and friends were asking him if he would really do it. Blair even tweeted how there were five police officers at the end of his row, yet he still made it onto the court.
Blair has a fan page on James’ official website and is shown in what appears to be his bedroom with “JAMES” spray painted on the wall in big block letters. His room is filled with James memorabilia from both the Cavs and Heat.
A James publicist said that Blair is one of thousands of fans who are part of the digital community at LeBronJames.com, but that James does not know him personally.
A Cavaliers spokesman said the organization had already held meetings Thursday morning to discuss how Blair made it onto the floor, and security measures will be changed to prevent it from happening again. Blair was originally subdued by a member of the Heat’s security staff.
“I’m surprised it doesn’t happen that much,” C.J. Miles said. “I think maybe some people are actually trying to watch the game.”
Scott seems to have spotted the fan before anyone else. He saw him coming when he got to the baseline.
“I didn’t think he was running out there to do any harm to anybody,” Scott said. “He was kind of stumbling out there, so my first thought was, ‘I hope he’s OK, and I hope security can get to him fast enough that nothing crazy happens.’ They did that.
“Just a fan. I guess he wanted to say hello to LeBron.”
Kyrie Irving was shooting and moving well after Cavs practice Thursday. He has missed two weeks with a shoulder injury, and the original diagnosis was three to four weeks.
“He’s feeling pretty good right now,” Scott said. Asked if he could return this season, Scott said: “Could be. We’ll see.”
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.