April 25, 2014

Cavs’ collapse to Heat leave plenty talking, many wondering

201302242007724424767-p2For all of the pre-game routines that NBA players plod through, it is the post-game rewind that keeps CJ Miles up at night. Following games, the Cavaliers swingman often stays awake until 4- or 5-o’clock in the morning, watching a replay of the recent game and then re-watching it in his mind, conjuring up the things he did right, but mostly criticizing himself for the things he could have done better. It’s something Miles has done since he was 14 or 15 years old, playing basketball inside the gym of his Dallas-area middle school. It flies smack in the face of most “how to” books regarding taking care of one’s body, but Miles has made it work — he finds other ways to compensate for the energy exerted in a given night and is willing to bend his routine in the event of back-to-back games.

For a player who maintains this level of headiness, Wednesday night’s loss to the Miami Heat was going to be that much worse. Where many of his teammates would throw on various levels of apparel that insinuated they would be going out for a bit before heading home, Miles sauntered from the shower and put on a simple pair of sweatpants and a crewneck Cavs sweatshirt — he was going to be thinking long and hard, why not be comfortable while doing it? It was, after all, Miles who took the final shot in would be a three-point loss; his team had been up by 27 at one point in the second half and his range was a main ingredient.

“It went exactly as planned,” said Miles of his failed buzzer-beating three-pointer. “I envisioned it four times before it happened. The exact spot I’d catch the ball, one or two dribbles, the spot I was going to shoot it. It felt good. I thought I hit it. Inside back rim…”

Miles drifting off was nothing short of requisite. Every player in the Cavaliers’ locker room following the loss spoke in tones which reflected how defeated they were internally. Luke Walton spoke of how important this win would have been — not just being a win over the Goliath Miami Heat, but one which could have provided a true “David” moment what with the injury-ridden Cavaliers toppling the giant in the throws of their juggernaut run through the rest of the National Basketball Association. Daniel Gibson spoke solemnly, saying that there were no excuses; the Cavaliers played the game the right way for the bulk of the action so to have no reward for their hard work “hurt.”

LeBron James Cavaliers IntrosBut where the Cavaliers have found themselves in this place many times this season1, Miles said that there was no common denominator with this game. It was different, if not bordering on bizzare.

From the opening tip, which was delayed over half an hour due to a carbon dioxide-leaking Q Tube, to the way Miami’s LeBron James stood alone, statuesque at midcourt while the Cavaliers were being introduced. From the way the Cavaliers — a motley crue of a starting five — built a roof-raising lead against the NBA’s best to the way they let it slip away with a barrage of turnovers, sloppy shot attempts and on-heel defense. The missed late-game three-pointer from Wayne Ellington that led to a questionable-at-best out-of-bounds call that was reviewed and given to the Heat with only one point separating the two teams. From the way that there was a hard-lined dichotomy of fans; some booing James the second he touched the ball, others giving mini standing ovations each time he scored. Near the Heat bench, as James removed his warm-ups and tightened his shoes2, countless fans attempted to get James’ attention by claiming their affinity to Akron.

Then there was the fan, the man named James Blair who is now known as the guy who ran onto the floor during the middle of play, promptly ushered out by Heat and Quicken Loans Arena security, but not before his message rang loud and clear — a hand-made t-shirt with the words “We Miss You” draped across the front. Though he would go on to spend the evening in jail, Blair’s actions have blown up the NBA world, adding fire to the narrative-fueled speculation surrounding James’ 2014 free agency. Typically, when fans enter the field of play, they’re ignored by the league and media partners. Blair, however, appears to be the exception especially since he was greeted by James with a pat on the head prior to his dismissal.

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And where James was quickly ushered off of the court two years ago, taken out of the arena through the back hallway of The Q, he greeted waiting fans following Wednesday night’ game, signing autographs for dozens of children, leaving plenty of goodwill in his wake.

Capping things off, Dan Gilbert used James’ name in a tweet, the first such a move since July of 2010.

Wednesday night’s festivities undoubtedly leave plenty to ponder. Should Byron Scott have used timeouts more effectively? Should he have played center Tyler Zeller more even when the Heat had decided to utilize a small lineup in their comeback attempt? Should Chris Quinn have gotten any run at all with Shaun Livingston being forced to play 37 minutes? Does the Q Tube need additional repairs? Are Dan Gilbert and James mending fences?

Miles stated that the team’s collapse was not due to a lack of effort as some previous defeats have been. The fact that Scott entrusted in him to take the final shot, something previously earmarked for Kyrie Irving and Kyrie Irving alone, bodes well for the coach’s confidence in the recently-turned 26-year old. But just as Miles had run that last-second three-point attempt through his head four or five times before he let it fly, he too will be left wondering what he could do better to help his team achieve that ultimate goal. Lost sleep, be damned.

For now, the Cavs and Cavalier fans are left wondering what-if, but with all of the olive branches and bizzaro world occurances on this very evening, what, exactly, will be?

(Photos by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images; Tony Dejak Associated Press)

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Footnotes:

  1. The Wine and Gold now lead the league in squandered 20-point leads this season, having now dropped three games despite considerable in-game advantages. []
  2. Fairfax LeBron VIs nonetheless, throwing it back to his days in Cleveland… []

  • Robbie S

    I think the real question is, why is Daniel Gibson on the floor at any point?

  • mgbode

    hey, when the Heat were making their charge, Gibson was one of the few guys to hit a couple shots. but, yeah, he and Luke were pretty awful last night.

    but, man, that 4th PF on Zeller killed us. Tyler was dominating the Heat down low. if he bulks up, then this is the Tyler I hope to see more often in the coming years.

  • http://twitter.com/clevezirm Jordan Zirm

    The loss doesn’t even both me as much as the copious amount of fans at that game who were wearing a LeBron Heat jersey and cheering for the Heat whenever they scored. It’s completely embarrassing to me how fans, and apparently now this franchise, is back groveling at LeBron’s feet. We begged for him not to leave, and now we’re begging for him to come back?

    I don’t care if LeBron returns here or if he doesn’t. He’s an attention hungry 28 year old who loves to thrust himself into story lines just for the hell of it. But to all the fans who showed up last night to cheer for the guy who did what he did to this city, have some respect and pride for yourselves. You would think that we would all have learned our lesson after we fell head over heels for LeBron for seven years. Now it’s starting all over again, and it’s disgusting. I will always maintain that Cleveland has some of the best fans in the world, but not last night. Last night embarassed me more than Bottlegate.

  • http://twitter.com/tompestak Thomas Pestak

    For the fans that haven’t watched the Cavs at all the last 2 months but decided to tune in last night – Luke Walton has been one of the Cavs better players since early February – and Zeller has really really struggled. At this point the incessant whining about Scott’s rotations are feeble attempts to explain away why a bad team loses a lot. Scotts got plenty of question marks – but people blaming every single loss on some specific rotation should stop.

  • Wow

    I’m so embarrassed, because of the loss, that fan, and just this team in general.

  • stryker1121

    What I hate is how this kind of thing always blows up into a “God Hates Cleveland” storyline. Bill Simmons and his like get off on it and we as fans perpetuate the notion.

  • Steve

    “Luke Walton has been one of the Cavs better players since early February”

    That’s all that needs to be said about the state of the team. Absolutely agree that they’ve played like crap, and Zeller, despite last night, has been a big part of that. The defense has been horrendous all season, and they’re not getting anywhere near contending until that gets seriously fixed.

  • Steve

    Remember all the people who said it wasn’t about him leaving, but the way he left. Are they still proselytizing or have they admitted they were full of it?

  • mgbode

    what are those people doing now? opinions on what to do leading up to 2014 still seem pretty split.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Pressure can burst pipes and the Cavaliers felt the heat and imploded down the stretch! Kinda like the scoreboard before tip-off.

  • MrCleaveland

    It’s going to take a long time to scrub the stink off of this one. Every member of that team should be ashamed of himself. There is no excuse. None.

  • ChadF

    The excuse is that you’re playing the best team in the world right now and that basketball, more than any game, is a game of runs. I told my wife when we were up 27 that if they end up losing this it will be the worst loss in franchise history, but in reality it wasn’t. It was just another game in another lottery season missing your best frontcourt player and your two top draft picks from consecutive years.

    Kudos to this motley crew for even putting together that lead. The Heat are just ridiculous right now and so is Lebron. I don’t see any team in the playoffs taking them to seven games, let along six.

  • Steve

    I think that’s a difference between what people say and what they’ll do.

    If Lebron joins this team in 2014, it will go back to being as popular as it was in 2010.

  • baclap

    Eff Blair. Don’t speak for me please.

  • deesh

    So I heard from people in Cleveland that apparently everyone’s calling for Byron Scott to be fired…

    …they’re not serious, right?

  • Du

    A Fan’s Summary of LeBron:

    2003: “He Coming.”

    2010: “He Gone.”

    2014: “He Back.”

  • EyesAbove

    Part of me never wants to see LeBron in a Cavs uniform ever again, but on the other hand it would be nice to see the Cavs be relevant again. If Clevelanders are going to wear his jersey it may as well be a Cavs jersey. If you cant beat him join him I suppose.

  • Garry_Owen

    Those jerseys have all been burned (according to ESPN).

  • ThatAlex

    Not every member.
    Tristan Thompson, Wayne Ellington and Shaun Livingston played fantastic.

  • ThatAlex

    It’s all meant as a joke and in good fun. Simmons doesn’t have anything against Cleveland, personally, and I read his articles with that in mind.

  • mgbode

    Tyler Zeller played perhaps his best game of the year and DEMANDS to be included. His 4th foul was a turning point in the game.

  • ThatAlex

    I was tempted to include Zeller in that, but racking up 4 fouls before halftime was precisely why I didn’t. We really could have used him down the stretch.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    It hurts how LeBron left because if he had told the Cavs brass that he would sign elsewhere, they would’ve had the money to go grab another big-name FA who they couldn’t pursue because they only had enough money for LeBron.

    As for last night, I’m not sure why Byron Scott’s name isn’t coming up more. Very poor coaching in the second half and the part that stings the most is that this isn’t the first time this has happened, nor is it the second time, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t the third time, either. The team isn’t making forward progress in the W column, only lateral progress. With improved talent. Seriously.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    Progress is supposed to be made by year 3, and it feels like the team is moving laterally, injuries be damned. They’re a part of the game. You have to be able to hold onto big leads in games JUST ONCE to show progress, and the Cavs haven’t done that all year.

  • mgbode

    he received his 4th foul midway through the 3rd quarter

  • woofersus

    Doesn’t it count as progress that a team that started off the worst in the league went .500 from January 1 until Kyrie went down? Most of that collapse last night happened with the starting front court on the bench with foul trouble and the starting back court in street clothes. Hardly a referendum on the rebuilding effort.

  • woofersus

    Not to mention Zeller is getting the full rookie treatment when it comes to fouls. He does get beaten sometimes and have to grab a guy, but in the Indiana game Hibbert would practically commit assault against Zeller without consequence and Zeller would get called for hand checks. He’s got a lot of learning still to do but I think the foul trouble issues are only about 30% his fault.