CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers trailed by single digits heading into the fourth quarter again Tuesday night, but they didn’t execute as well as the Boston Celtics over the final 12 minutes.
The Cavs didn’t have a legitimate offensive surge until about the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when they started a 9-0 run to eventually cut the lead to 113-110.
Despite a key three from Collin Sexton that kept the team within 116-113, the Cavs couldn’t pull out the win and lost 119-113. Here are three key stats from the Cavs’ second home loss of the season.
The Cavs had seven assists in the first half
The Cavs have moved the ball relatively well so far this season, but their offense was stagnant in the first half Tuesday. Cleveland totaled seven assists on 19 made field goals.
Coach John Beilein wants the Cavs to eventually imitate the Celtics, a team that boasts an offense filled with ball movement.
“They move the ball the way Cleveland’s going to move the ball,” Beilein said. “The ball does not stick, they hit the next open man. When we’re doing that as a team, we’re a much better team. And we’re trying like crazy to get that done, and it’s baby steps.”
The second half was much different, as the Cavs had 15 assists. Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson both finished with a team-high four assists.
Beilein wants his team to be focused on making the right reads.
“I think the word would be an awareness that ‘somebody is more open than I am, and then if I just pass it to him, maybe there’s a closeout, we can drive or there’s another guy open,’” Beilein said.
Cleveland improved second-half shooting
With the Cavs not sharing the ball, they ran into several difficult shots in the first half. If the Cavs tried to penetrate the lane, the Celtics were there, ready to contest or swat a shot; Boston had a season-high 12 blocks. Cleveland shot 39.6% from the field and 27.8% from the 3-point line.
The second half was better, though. With more players involved in the offense, the Cavs shot 43.8% from the field and 53.3% from the 3-point line. Sexton led the team with 21 points, 2-of-3 from the 3-point line.
Some of the Cavs’ best shots came in the game’s most important moments.
Kevin Love ignited the Cavs’ spurt with a turnaround jumper to cut the Celtics’ lead to 10 with 4:11 left. Three-pointers from Cedi Osman and Sexton twice cut the margin to three.
It’s good the Cavs made shots late in the game, but they can’t wait until the final minutes to hit their stride.
The Cavs’ bench produced
The Celtics never had a lead larger than 13 points, and a reason for that was the performances from Cavs reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Cleveland’s bench outscored Boston’s 40-24, and Nance and Clarkson combined for 27.
Nance tied a season-high with 15 points, and made three 3-pointers to tie a career-high.
Through seven games, Clarkson has been the team’s best scorer off the bench, averaging 15.0 points in 23.2 minutes. But his four assists showed how he can be a facilitator as well.
“I think I said this earlier today, when people would have said, ‘You get to coach Jordan Clarkson,’” Beilein said.
“And I would have said, ‘OK, I know he can score, does he pass?’ Because nobody had ever said, ‘oh man, what a passer.’ He can really see the floor, and the more that he plays, the better he’s getting at it. So I don’t hesitate to play him as a primary ball handler at all.”