Something was going to give in a game that saw several trends by both teams go head-to-head. The Cleveland Cavaliers had lost four straight at home, while the Sacramento Kings were tied for the worst road record in the NBA at 1-13. As it has been all season, playing the Cavaliers has been a good way for teams to buck the trend, and it continued last night, as Cleveland fell 97-94 to the Kings.
The game was as tightly contested throughout as the final score made it seem. It was not until late in the fourth quarter that Sacramento took control with the poise needed to win on the road. After Kyrie Irving made two free throws, the King went on a 5-0 run that took their lead to four points with just 19 seconds left. Irving did get a shot from mid-court as the buzzer sounded, that would have tied the game, but it clanged off the rim and sealed the loss.
For much of this season, it has been penetrating guard play that has hurt the Cavaliers, yet in this game, in a match up of two point guards who were picked at the opposite end of the same draft, it was the post play that hurt Cleveland on both ends of the court. The combination of power forward Jason Thompson and center DeMarcus Cousins really created issues for the Cavaliers, who are still without injured center Anderson Varejao.
Thompson scored a team-high 19 points and had 10 rebounds, while Cousins, who has been hot since his return from suspension four games ago, had 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. While the Kings did a good job of feeding their big men, they were balanced offensively. Francisco Garcia scored 14 points and Aaron Brooks came off the bench for 13 and three assists.
While Cleveland's big men had trouble stopping their Sacramento counterparts defensively, they were not able to get going offensively either. Center Tyler Zeller and power forward Tristan Thompson missed 12 of their 19 field goal attempts on the night. Zeller finished with just eight points and eight rebounds and Thompson only managed 9 points and 13 rebounds.
As usual Irving led his team in scoring, with 22 on the night. Dion Waiters, who came of the bench for this game, scored 20 points, while Alonzo Gee scored 16 points and had six assists. C.J. Miles, who started in place of Waiters, was the only other Cavalier to score in double digits with 12 points.
This was a game that this Cleveland team and their fans will have expected to win. With the struggles Sacramento have had this season, especially on the road, it will feel like a game that got away, especially with how close things were. While both Zeller and Thompson are young players, it is hard to make excuses for their poor play on both ends of the court. This will make fans even more eager for Varejao to return, whenever that may be.
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