Over the weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked to try and get back on track, after a tough road trip, where they won just one game and had fallen to 2-6 on the season. So far this year, the issue has been finishing games, as the Cavaliers have played well through the first two quarters in many of their competitions, but have not been able to sustain it in the third and fourth quarters.
This pattern continued over the weekend, as Cleveland led the Dallas Mavericks at home by one at halftime on Saturday and trailed the Philadelphia 76ers by just one on the road at the break on Sunday.
Saturday, guard play was what did in the Cavaliers in the second half. The Mavericks' O.J. Mayo scored a team-high 19 points, while Darren Collison and Vince Carter each scored 14 points. Even little used Dominique Jones, who had been a Did Not Play-Coaches decision the last three games, scored 10 points and had five assists, which resulted in a 103-95 win for Dallas.
While opposition guard play plagued Cleveland last year and so far this year, it was also the Cavaliers' guards that caused their own issues on this night. While Kyrie Irving did score a game-high 26 points, he had no assists and no rebounds, for the first time in his career, and was not effective in the second half, after suffering a a left index finger contusion in the third quarter that left him playing much of the final two periods with one hand.
Rookie guard Dion Waiters scored 16 points, but did so on 16 shots in an inefficient night. On the bright side, Daniel Gibson continued his strong play from the bench, offensively, with 16 points also and five assists. While the main problem continues to be the inability to slow down the opponent's guards, it will be accentuated if Cleveland's guards cannot be affective as well.
Byron Scott's focus before Sunday's game was on the defense. He had not been happy with the Cavaliers' effort on that side of the ball this season, and had made that a point of emphasis while talking with the team.
The defensive was better against the 76ers, limiting them to 43 first-half points and 86 overall, but struggled offensively, losing the sixth straight, 86-79.
It was a similar story to the night before, as Irving, who was still dealing with his finger injury, scored just nine points and had four assists, while Waiters was limited to just five points. Gibson, who had been strong off the bench this season, did not play in the game, Scott's decision. Alonzo Gee scored 17 points with four rebounds, while Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson each had 14, with 15 and 13 rebounds respectively, but Cleveland could not close the deal in the second half yet again.
Philadelphia's starting guards Jrue Holiday and Jason Richardson combined for 26 points on the night, and Evan Turner added 19 more to go along with nine dimes. Spencer Hawes was a killer in the second half, as he made big shots in the final two periods to open up the 76ers' lead.
The Cavaliers will face a familiar opponent on Wednesday when they square up with Philadelphia again, this time at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. They will hope to be more affective offensively, and get a stronger second-half performance.
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