CLEVELAND: Until the Cavaliers figure out how to run an inbounds play at the end of close games, they’re going to struggle with winning them. For the second time in about a week, the Cavs lost at the buzzer Sunday because they couldn’t get a shot off in the game’s final seconds.
Earl Clark stepped out of bounds with a chance to force overtime and the short-handed Cavs lost to the Indiana Pacers 82-78 on a night they were without their top two point guards.
Kyrie Irving missed his third consecutive game with a left knee injury and Jarrett Jack was a late scratch with back spasms. The Cavs trailed 81-78 and had a chance to force overtime with 7.9 seconds left against the best team in the NBA, but Matthew Dellavedova struggled getting the ball inbounded. He finally flipped it to Clark to avoid a 5-second call, but Clark’s foot was on the sideline for the Cavs’ eighth turnover of the quarter and 18th for the game.
Coach Mike Brown said the Cavs blew the execution on the play, which is what he said last weekend at Boston when the ball ended up in Clark’s hands at the end of the game. The Cavs botched the play, and Clark never got a shot off because he first took a dribble and the clock expired.
With Irving and Jack both out of the game, Brown said it was the first time the five that were on the floor — Clark, Dellavedova, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Anderson Varejao — ever ran the play together.
He needed two timeouts to set up the play because the first time guys were in the wrong position, forcing Brown to burn a second timeout to reposition them.
“You’re in a situation trying to get a guy open to shoot a 3,” Brown said. “I’ve done it with Jack and Kyrie on the floor. That group basically was going off just how I drew it. It can affect the timing when you haven’t had a chance to go through it.”
The Cavs trailed by 16 at one point in the fourth quarter, but Waiters scored 12 consecutive points and the Cavs were within one at three different points in the final few minutes.
Miles scored 21 points, Waiters had 14 and Tristan Thompson had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Varejao had 13 rebounds and is averaging 14.6 in his last five games.
Prior to the botched inbounds play at the end, the Cavs trailed 80-78 and had possession with 20.8 seconds left, meaning they could’ve taken the final shot and forced overtime. Instead of running a play, Brown put the ball in Waiters’ hands and flattened the rest of the players across the baseline to give him a chance to make a play, similar to what Waiters did last week when he forced overtime on a drive to the basket against the Orlando Magic.
But the Magic don’t have Roy Hibbert to protect the rim. The Pacers do. Waiters beat Paul George off the dribble, but never got the shot to the rim because Hibbert was standing in his way. Hibbert grabbed the rebound, and the Cavs fouled. He split the free throws, setting up the Cavs’ final chance to tie.
“We never put our heads down when they went up 16,” Waiters said. “We just fought back. These type of losses hurt because we were right there. We’ve been there all year long. Once we find a way to close these games out, we’ll be really good.”
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.