Beyond the Box Score: Cavs feelin’ the Heat after more late game trouble in 100-97 loss to Miami

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Miami Heat are suddenly closer than they appear in the rear-view mirror to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Too many empty possessions for the Cavs in the fourth quarter cost them a chance to put additional distance between themselves and Miami in the East standings following a 100-97 loss at home Tuesday night.

The win pulled Miami within 1.5 games of Cleveland in the East.

Here’s a look Beyond the Box Score from Tuesday night’s loss.

1. The playoffs are the big picture goal for the Cavs, but they are now already underway. “These are the situations we want to be in,” center Jarrett Allen, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds, said. “We want to be in these close games fighting against the best teams. Playoff atmosphere, playoff type basketball where they find every little area that they can attack us. So this is just something that we're going to use to grow for where we want to be in the future.”

2. Too many empty possessions in the final quarter. Stop us if you’ve heard that before. “Obviously it's frustrating,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I mean, there's no doubt about it. You just watch the guys go out and compete the way that they competed and you look at the things that they did defensively. I thought we were great, I think, but to hold that team to a hundred points and 21 points in the fourth quarter that's not easy to do.”

3. A lot of attention will be paid to the final 90 seconds, and understandably so, but the Cavs lost the game in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter when they held the Heat scoreless but only managed to score four points themselves. “It felt like we were missing shots. It kind of got stagnant,” Allen said. “I feel like Miami's defense was pretty good at that point. We couldn't run our stuff. I think I want to say they're in that zone. They run a hell of a zone and it's kind of hard to just find our spots to score. We're used to playing against man offense or man defense, and I think it threw us [off].”

4. The Cavs shot 7-17 from the field in the final quarter and Miami 8-19.

5. The basketball gods gave the Cavs one last shot at a prayer and overtime, but Donovan Mitchell’s desperation heave at the buzzer didn’t go. “I just wanted to get right to the right wing and just take my shot,” Mitchell said. “I've hit it before early in my career…especially when my momentum's going as fast as I am, I can pretty much control the shot better going that way as opposed to going left. I just had my head down, knew I was going to go right to left and get to a spot.” Mitchell finished 6-17 from the field for 16 points, nine assists and three rebounds.

6. Another tough loss, and another lesson to be learned for the young Cavs, who are 4-7 in games decided by three or fewer points this season. “To me, it's about the total game,” Bickerstaff said. “What position do you put yourself in down the stretch? What plays are you making for the entirety of the game? Obviously end of game execution and understanding one another is obviously huge. Guys being in the right spots, guys doing all the small things like the setting of screens, the angles of screens being sound with the basketball, all those things that we have to continue to work on and get better at. It's hard to win in the NBA but again we're still learning each other and we're still learning how to play in games like this and experience is the difference for all of us. So we just keep working at it.”

7. At some point these lessons need to turn into wins for the Cavs to be the playoff contenders they aspire to be, a point Mitchell made after the game. “I think we're all kind of tired of coming here and saying we're learning, you know, want to learn through success in different ways and we haven't played well and that's just the honest truth,” Mitchell said. “We just got to find a way to do that and that's through all of us. Our defense is held up and now offense, we going to kind of pick it back up as a group. And I think the biggest thing is we'll turn it around, we'll get better. But I think that's why there's a sense of disappointment because we felt like we should have won this game. I think it's a winnable game for us, especially on our home floor.”

8. Everyone loves buzzer beaters and fans were treated to a pair of them from deep Tuesday night. Caris LeVert buried a 3 at the buzzer to give the Cavs a 26-24 lead after 1 and Mitchell raced up the floor before slamming on the brakes and launching one from behind the line to tie it at 79 after three.
It’s too bad a third wasn’t in the cards.

9. The ole adage that good defense fuels the offense doesn’t seem to apply to these Cavs – at least not Tuesday night. Be it holding Miami to 2-10 shooting to start the game or keeping the Heat scoreless for the first 4:59 of the fourth quarter, Cleveland failed to capitalize and put some distance between them on the scoreboard both times. “We just didn't execute offensively,” Mitchell said. “No matter what we did defensively, we weren't putting ourselves in positions to succeed, and that's on us.”

10. The Cavs made six more field goals than the Heat, and still lost.

11. Part of the reason that happened was that despite coming into the game as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league, the Heat shot 14 of 31 from beyond the arc while the Cavs were a dismal 11-40.

12. Jimmy Butler scored just four of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat but they came in the final 2:05 on a jumper and two trips to the free throw line that saw him split the charity tosses.

13. The Heat were more physical and once again that seemed to bother the Cavs. Although Cleveland outscored the visitors in the paint 50-36, Miami won the battle on the boards 45-39. Heat forward cam Martin and center Bam Adebayo each tallied double-doubles with 8 points and 11 rebounds for Adebayo and 10 for Martin.

14. The Heat have been there, done that. The Cavs have not. “You saw a team that's been there and then you saw a team that hasn't been there as a group and that's not a terrible thing,” Mitchell said. “It's not something that is the sky has falling, but now we see, okay, continuously we learn in these losses what it takes.” Aside from another lesson learned, experience was the other theme following the loss. “They've been in that situation many of times knowing how to close out games like this,” Allen said. “I think we kind of dropped the ball a little bit towards the end and they took advantage of that.”

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