DALLAS: The most alarming part of the 96-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night wasn’t the poor second half or even the disastrous fourth quarter. The biggest surprise was the 18 turnovers.
Turnovers haunted the Cavs early in the season, when they routinely left arenas after nights with 19, 20, 21 — and once even 27 — miscues in a game. That problem has been rectified the past couple of months, but the Cavaliers were awful at protecting the ball on Friday.
Dion Waiters had five turnovers. The typically sure-handed Luke Walton did, too.
Waiters made a bad pass that Dirk Nowtizki stole, Walton lost a ball out of bounds. Waiters fired another bad pass and Alonzo Gee was whistled for palming the ball — and that was just within the first 5½ minutes of the fourth quarter.
Six of the Cavs’ 18 turnovers were committed in the fourth, when the offense crumbled and the Mavericks outscored them 15-2 during a crucial five-minute stretch while coach Byron Scott burned two timeouts to no avail.
“We got a little bit antsy with the ball,” Scott said. “Eighteen turnovers is too many for us against a team like this.”
The third quarter has typically been the most bothersome for the Cavs, but Friday it was the start to the fourth that wrecked them. Actually, their problems began during the final two minutes of the third, when the Mavericks made two 3-pointers and Darren Collison banked in an off-balance heave just to beat the shot clock.
“Ridiculous,” Shaun Livingston said.
Livingston countered with a turnaround jumper to close the third and give the Cavs a 68-67 lead to begin the fourth, but the Mavericks had all the momentum they needed after storming back from an 11-point deficit in a first half in which they never led.
Waiters had 21 points, including 11 of the Cavs’ 18 in the fourth quarter, but was more aggravated by his five turnovers.
The only time Waiters had more in a game was the last time the Cavs had at least 18 — Feb. 11 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, when Waiters had a career-high six turnovers and the Cavs ended with 20.
“I didn’t even know I had that many turnovers. I’ve got to do a better job, first and foremost, of taking care of the ball,” Waiters said. “I think it had to do with us rushing because we couldn’t make shots. We just got out of character a little bit and it hurt us.”
The Cavs had 15 baskets and 11 turnovers in the second half, when the Mavericks outscored them 58-40.
“We couldn’t make a shot,” Waiters said.
The Mavericks lost an emotional, draining game at the buzzer to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, and it showed in the first half against the Cavs. Dirk Nowitzki missed his first five shots, the Mavs began the game shooting 3 of 15 and the Cavs quickly built leads of 13-4 early in the first quarter and 29-18 early in the second.
It didn’t last. The more shots the Mavericks made in the fourth quarter, the more the Cavs seemed to press and even panic. They missed open looks, stopped moving the ball at times and were blasted in the fourth quarter.
Livingston had 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, Tristan Thompson had 12 points and seven rebounds and Tyler Zeller had 10 points and 10 rebounds, but he did the bulk of his damage in the first half. He went scoreless in the second half and missed all three of his shots while grabbing just one rebound.
“We didn’t hit shots, they hit tough shots and we had too many turnovers,” Zeller said. “It was those stupid turnovers that add up, little things you can’t afford to do.”
The Cavs played without Wayne Ellington, who sprained his ankle Tuesday in the win against the Washington Wizards. He warmed up during pregame drills, but the ankle was too sore. He said after the game he believes he’ll be able to play tonight when the Cavs play at the San Antonio Spurs.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.