That’s the number I take away from the Cavs’ 111-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets came into Cleveland riding an eight game win streak, Denver had eight players score in double figures, and the Cavs started the night by spotting Denver an 8-0 advantage. Eight was also the final margin of victory, although it seemed like much more.
Also, Alonzo Gee went 8-8 from the floor, which I’m betting will never happen again.
This was a frustrating game to watch. While the Cavs say they like running and pushing the ball, the Nuggets actually do it. They run at every opportunity; missed shots, made shots, turnovers… every change of the possession it seemed the Nuggets had two guys behind the Cavalier defense. The speed that the Nuggets play took the Cavs out of their comfort zone, defensively as well as offensively.
Kyrie Irving paced the Cavs with 26 points and Alonzo Gee finished with 20 (after scoring 16 in the first period). While a sub-par game for the 20-year old All-Star, Kyrie still finished with 26 points (though just 10-24 from the floor), seven assists and six boards. Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 19 points and nine boards, Kenneth Faried finished with 17 points and seven boards and JaVale McGee made his presence felt off the bench, notching four blocks to go with his 13 points.
Even though the Cavs blew their chance for their longest post-Decision win streak, there’s no shame in losing to this Denver team. The Nuggets are currently fourth in a loaded Western Conference and, as we saw on Saturday, they’re a much deeper team than the Cavaliers.
After Denver jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, Alonzo Gee caught fire and the Cavs fed the hot hand. That’s all well and good when Gee goes 6-6 for the quarter and get you back in the game. Maybe Gee’s hot start set the tone or maybe it was Denver’s aggressive defense, but the Cavs never found an offensive flow. It felt like four quarters of ‘hero ball’ from the wine and gold; the offense stagnated, no one moved and their good looks were few and far between. It didn’t help that they were literally playing catchup from the opening minutes. The Cavs never got comfortable.
The Cavs must get more production out of their bigs. A night after making Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson look like All-Stars, I was looking for a bounce back game from Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson. Nope. Zeller looked overmatched against Denver’s front line and Tristan managed to finish the game with zero defensive rebounds. Denver outrebounded the Cavaliers 46-38. For all the potential in Cleveland’s young front court, there’s a reason the Cavs are eyeing Greg Oden.
Not that he was anywhere near alone, but Dion Waiters had a bad night. Waiters hit his first shot of the night but proceeded to miss his next five (he had the lone non-Gee points during the initial six minutes). Dion finished just 1-6 from the floor, didn’t provide much defense, and never made it off the bench during the fourth quarter. In case you were wondering, I highly doubt that the play of C.J. Miles (3-7 FG, 1-5 3pt) was the reason Dion sat the final period.
Obligatory Byron Scott complaint. I get subbing out Kyrie at the end of the first half. He had three fouls. But the Cavs had the ball to the half and Byron let Dion go 1-on-5. Kyrie couldn’t come back in for that last play? The larger issue is that the Cavs end quarters horribly. In the final 60 seconds of the first three periods, the Cavaliers were outscored 15-2 (and it could’ve been worse, they waived off McGee’s final basket in the third quarter). The Cavs lost by eight points and were outscored 15-2 during the final minutes of the first three periods. That’s a lack of focus and this isn’t the first time it has cost the Cavs a game.
The refs stunk. Look, in no way am I saying that the refs are the reason the Cavs lost this game (Cleveland had zero interest in rebounding or getting back on defense). But this happened. Also, offensive three seconds, is that still a thing?
Marreese Speights is human after all. This was Speights’ first clunker as a Cavalier, as he finished 1-10 from the floor for five points and three boards off the bench (for what it’s worth, he blamed himself for the loss on twitter). Speights had scored in double figures in all of his previous Cavalier appearances.
Minnesota on Monday. The Cavs continue their six-game home stand when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves (18-29) at 7:00 on Monday night. Ricky Rubio and the Wolves will be on the second night of a back-to-back and a win for the Cavs would ensure an above .500 record for the home stand.