By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
BROOKLYN, N.Y.: In two games without their leading scorer, the Cavaliers are shooting 35 percent and averaging 84.5 points. They managed just four baskets in the fourth quarter Saturday (two until the final minute) and let the game slip away with a careless fourth quarter that included four turnovers and little ball movement.
With Kyrie Irving nursing an injured left knee in Cleveland, the Cavs lost to the Brooklyn Nets 89-82. They’ve now dropped seven of their last eight games and ninth in their last 11. As long as Irving is out — and right now there’s no telling how long that might be — the Cavs’ offense seems destined to sputter.
“He’s our best player, especially when it comes to scoring the basketball,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “You miss his 22 points a game, but I give our guys credit. They competed in the second half. We took the lead, we just couldn’t hold on. But you miss a guy of his capabilities, especially down the stretch in situations like this.”
Irving’s status for Sunday’s home game isn’t yet known, but he didn’t make the trip to Brooklyn and therefore seems unlikely to play against the Pacers. Without him Saturday, the Cavs had as many assists as turnovers (14), but managed just one assist in the fourth quarter.
“Ball movement, patience and spacing whether it’s in the half court or in transition or off offensive rebounds for us is going to be paramount,” Brown said. “He brings 22 points to the table and he’s very creative with the basketball.”
The Cavs, right now, are not.
The Nets gave Kevin Garnett the night off and believe they’re starting to figure some things out, particularly with Deron Williams having solid games in consecutive performances after the Nets won at Oklahoma City on Thursday. The Cavs aren’t as fortunate.
Without Irvin, the Cavs shot 37 percent and managed 82 points after shooting 34 percent and scoring 79 points in regulation (87 counting overtime) Thursday against the Orlando Magic.
Dion Waiters had 22 points, including nine in the third quarter when the Cavs briefly took the lead, but the offense stalled again in the fourth quarter as the Nets took control.
Brown has grown accustomed to using three-guard lineups much of the season, but he went even more dramatic Saturday and played four guards. Waiters, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles and Matthew Dellavedova played the bulk of the fourth quarter together with Anderson Varejao, but the Cavs couldn’t close the deficit.
Miles had 17 points and 7 rebounds, Dellavedova had 13 points and Varejao had 12 rebounds one game after tying the franchise record of 25 on Thursday. But Thompson’s layup with 9:30 left was the Cavs’ only fourth-quarter basket through the first seven minutes, allowing the Nets to stretch a 67-65 lead at the start of the quarter to 78-71. Varejao’s basket with 5:15 left was the Cavs’ last until the final minute, when the outcome had already been decided.
“You’ve got to play as close to perfect basketball for 48 minutes as we can,” Jack said. “As long as we get the necessary looks, I think that’s half the battle. And obviously with Kyrie that helps counter that, but I thought for the most part we played well, took care of the ball, don’t think we turned it over too much. Other than defensive breakdowns we had in the first half … we played well.”
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.