Cleveland Cavaliers defense falters against Spurs in 96-95 loss

Feb 13, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) blocks a shot attempt by Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller had growing up games on the same night. Unfortunately the Cavs couldn’t get the job done on defense at the very end of the game, as Cleveland lost to the San Antonio Spurs, 96-95. Waiters finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Zeller scored 16 points, corralled nine rebounds and dished out four assists. The rookies were doing it all tonight, while the sophomores sat idly by for the most part. On the other hand, San Antonio sophomore Kawhi Leonard hit the go-ahead three with 2.9 seconds left in the game and finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

The Spurs put on a defensive clinic, as they combined for 10 blocks and held Cleveland to 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) shooting from three. They hustled the court all night and wouldn’t let the Cavaliers score easy buckets. Kyrie Irving only attempted one three, but he was a big reason why the Wine and Gold struggled on Wednesday night. He only shot 13.3 percent and scored a career low six points, but the bench stepped up while Kyrie forced up too many shots in the second half and got into foul trouble early.

Even though Waiters had such a grand performance for the most part tonight, his missed assignment on Leonard at the end of the game cost Cleveland the game. On the earlier possession, Waiters stepped back and made a 20-footer due to Kyrie’s struggles throughout the game.

Irving’s struggles spanned more than just shooting troubles. His defense was horrid at best, as Tony Parker burned him on fast breaks, fried him on offense and clamped down on defense. Parker finished with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds and went 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

The bench stepped up once again and paced the Cavaliers to an early 54-46 lead at the end of the first half. They scored 18 points and finished with 36 on the game. C.J. Miles had a rim-rocking jam in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to spark the team the rest of the way through. He led the bench with 10 points and five rebounds. Marreese Speights also had a strong performance on the bench, but he wasn’t getting the calls from the zebras. He still finished with nine points and nine rebounds.

Cleveland has been playing consistent basketball for the most part and have upped their assists and rebounds. Their shooting average, which reached a peak of 56.5 percent against the Charlotte Bobcats recently. They could’ve finished off right before the All-Star break with a win against the team with the NBA’s best record, but the defense faltered down the stretch.

The Cavaliers will have off for the All-Star break for the next seven days. Irving, Waiters, Zeller and Tristan Thompson will be flying down to Houston to compete in All-Star activities. Irving, Waiters and Zeller will be competing for Team Shaq at the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, while Thompson got drafted to Team Chuck. On Saturday, Irving will be one of six contestants in the three-point contest. He will then finish up a busy weekend on Sunday as a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The Cavaliers will face the New Orleans Hornets on Feb. 20 and the game will be aired on ESPN (!) at 8 p.m.

Topics: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dion Waiters, San Antonio Spurs, Tyler Zeller

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