CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cavaliers just cannot close basketball games.
Despite a classic performance from forward Kevin Love, the Cavs’ losing streak extended to five games in a 115-113 loss Tuesday to the Detroit Pistons. Love scored 30 points, matching his season high.
Pistons forward Tony Snell made a 3-pointer with about 54 seconds left to complete a rally from an 11-point deficit to start the quarter. Now trailing 112-111, Cavs guard Collin Sexton drove to the hoop and got fouled. Sexton made two free throws and gave the Cavs a brief one-point lead before Derrick Rose made a layup to put the Pistons up 114-113 with 26.1 seconds left.
Sexton’s floater in the final seconds was wide left as the shot clock expired. Andre Drummond made a free throw to complete the scoring.
The Cavs had two close games in this homestand, with the other being the Jan. 2 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. While they haven’t executed well in late-game situations, their growth in the area will only come with more experience.
“I think it’s so hard to do it, except in games, is take the guys through the last two or three minutes tomorrow on video, and just show ’em some of the things that we gotta do better,” coach John Beilein said. “You gotta play winning basketball at that time. Whether it’s defense, whether it’s talk, shot selection, it’s gotta be winning basketball.”
With 3:36 left, Cedi Osman made a 3-pointer, followed on the next possession by Love’s fourth 3-pointer of the night to make it 111-105. After a Rose basket, Tristan Thompson was called for a flagrant one foul against Drummond, who hit two free throws to cut the Cavs’ lead to 111-109.
The Cavs started the final 12 minutes with a 95-84 lead, but fell victim to another bout of late-game stalled offense. Cleveland lost the energy that built their lead in the first half and maintained it coming out of halftime.
While Love scored 15 points in the third quarter, he had six in the fourth. The Cavs didn’t go to him enough, and it cost their offense. The Cavs were outscored 31-18 in the quarter.
The Cavs scored five points in the last three minutes, with Love’s fourth 3-pointer and Sexton’s two free throws being the only source of points. Sexton said the Cavs have to keep feeding Love when he’s playing well. At the same time, though, the Pistons took away Love and made other players make plays.
“They load up to where we can’t get it to him, so we gotta go second option,” Sexton said. “Second option always has to be ready to go.”
Cleveland’s offense in the first half and some of the third quarter was what the franchise hopes for in seasons to come. In the first half the Cavs shot 59.1% from the field and 50% from three in taking a 67-54 edge at the break.
Rose led the Pistons (14-24) off the bench with 24 points, Drummond added 23 along with 20 rebounds and two blocks. Sexton missed 12 of his 19 shots but still managed 20 points for Cleveland (10-27), and Osman added 17 while little-used Brandon Knight came off the bench for 13 points.
Though the Cavs have faltered in close games, it beats the alternative of losing in blowouts. Getting the experience will only help the Cavs’ growth.
“I think just being in the game late game is a good thing,” Thompson said. “It’s better than getting blown out by 30. I think for our team if we’re in games late down the stretch and have a chance to win ball games, that’s the best learning you can do.
The Cavs will begin a six-game road trip Thursday in Detroit against the Pistons. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.