It’s funny how sports work sometimes. One minute you could be getting all the praise as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), and the next fans are looking at you for an excuse to point out a goat (or scapegoat). For Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving and Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole, the roles switched within a matter of seconds. With just under four minutes to play, those in attendance at the last game of the season at Quicken Loans Arena were witnesses to another budding Mr. Fourth Quarter performance. The problem, however, all season long has been the team’s ability to finish complete games. Monday night was no different. Irving finished off the fourth quarter with six of the team’s final eight points, and after Norris Cole missed both free throws with 14.3 seconds to go in the contest, the ball was now back in Kyrie’s court with the Cavaliers down one.
96-95. Kyrie with the ball. Last home game of the season. LeBron James watching anxiously for an All-Star play from the bench. Too perfect of a scenario, right? Cole, who almost racked up a triple-double – 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists – had played great up to that point, so he knew he couldn’t let a performance such as the aforementioned stat line go to waste. After failing to get the ball inbounds on the first attempt, Kyrie finally got hold and was ready to put up the 20-footer for the W. The Cleveland State University product had other intentions, as he stripped the premier point guard of the ball and ran out the clock, completing the painful series sweep in which Cleveland lost four games by a total of 10 points. Devastating comebacks? You bet. Heartbreak at home? Most definitely. Being outhustled by the Heat’s B-team? Absolutely unacceptable.
All season long Cleveland had been known for blowing seemingly insurmountable leads, but knowing better, I always knew that no matter how big or at what point in the game, the Cavs would find a way to let their opponents back into the match. This was mostly accomplished with a three-point barrage, and that’s exactly what Miami’s intentions were on Monday. Going 5-of-6 from long range in the third quarter allowed the Heat to outscore Cleveland by 12 points in the 12-minute frame, which wiped out the Cavs’ first-half three-point lead in less than two minutes. The Heat finished the game shooting 46.4 percent from three.
But who were these old scrubs that helped Miami crawl back into the game? With Mario Chalmers and the Big Three (James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) sitting out in preparation for playoff basketball, it was impossible to tell who would be the catalyst in this matchup. Kyrie and gang clearly had the advantage, but sometimes when you’re in a slump or tired from a season of degrading loss after loss, any group of players can school you on the court.
Players score when they get minutes, it’s just a fact of life. Busts shouldn’t be defined by how many points they score or rebounds they grab, but by how many opportunities for game action their coach gives them. If Cole plays 43 minutes, he’s going to have more than enough opportunities to make an impact. But when matched up against one of the premier players in the NBA, you can’t let a guy who plays less than 20 minutes regularly per night embarrass you like that. Want to see a list of the leading scorers from Miami in this contest and cringe when you see their averages? I know I don’t:
1. Rashard Lewis – 32 minutes, 19 points – averaging 13.8 minutes, 4.7 points
2. Norris Cole – we already know what he did – averaging 19.3 minutes, 5.4 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists
3. James Jones – 29 minutes, 14 points – averaging 5.2 minutes, 1.3 points
Again, even the most scrubbiest of players can get buckets when they get minutes, but this shouldn’t happen when the future of our lineup is going up against a team’s reserves. The Cavaliers’ three leading scorers didn’t blow these somewhat roster fillers out of the water. It will pain you to see who exactly they are:
1. Kyrie Irving – 36 minutes, 16 points, eight assists
2. Tristan Thompson* – 36 minutes, 16 points, 13 rebounds
3. Dion Waiters – 27 minutes, 16 points, four assists
*In all fairness, I though Thompson played the best out of anyone tonight. These weren’t necessarily terrible performances, but when our three building blocks for the future have an output similar to their season averages against the Miami B-team, there’s not a lot to be happy about*
So was this yet another fire-worthy performance for the head coach? He still doesn’t believe so, and I tend to agree, still.
I am going to be back to coach (Cavs) next year. I’ve got a year left on my contract. That’s how I approach it.
But according to Pro Basketball Draft, Scott will not be returning next year:
Expect Byron Scott to be fired shortly after regular season conclusion based on conversations w/ several Cavs sources.
More bad news.
After the game, Kyrie walked to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury. Any updates on his status will be posted here at Right Down Euclid. The Cavaliers will finish off their season with a matchup in Charlotte with the Bobcats on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.
In the meantime, this will somewhat brighten your day: Dion Waiters goes HAM on Birdman.