By Douglas DiLillo
It was like deja vu at the Q.
For the second time in two nights, the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-3) took on the New Jersey Nets (3-5) but this time they had the comforts of home.
Or so you would think.
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After amassing a three game winning streak on the road, including a, 93-91 win in New Jersey on Tuesday, the Wine and Gold lead most of the game but eventually surrendered, 95-87, and dropped to one and three at the Q.
“I thought for the first time that we were the tired team tonight in the fourth quarter,” coach Byron Scott said. “I thought they (Nets) just outworked us. You have to give them credit, anytime you give up 15 offensive rebounds or send a team to the free throw line 35 times, it’s going to be tough to win.”
JJ Hickson lead the way for Cleveland with 15 points, six rebounds and probably the first real “OMG” moment the home crowd has seen in this short NBA season.
With 4:53 left to play and the Cavaliers down, 79-80, Hickson used a shot fake to beat his defender and hammered down the hardest dunk the Q has seen since #23 played for the Wine and Gold.
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The crowd collectively came to its feet as Hickson slammed the ball home but it seemed the only thing that was truly slammed after that momentum-swinging play was the door on the Cavaliers.
The Nets would go on an 8-0 run after the dunk to end their five game losing streak. They were down ten at halftime but used a strong third quarter to get them back in the game.
The third quarter has clearly been the Cavaliers vulnerable point and that extends into last season.
“I don’t know,” Daniel Gibson said on why the Cavaliers haven’t produced after halftime. “I think if we knew, it wouldn’t happen. I just think it is something that we are going to have to figure out as we go along. I don’t think that its something that you can practice; It’s just something that has to happen. The switch is going to click here soon.”
While the Cavaliers got back above .500 on the road, they have surrendered two of their last three at home while leading both games by double digits at halftime.
Letting the home fans down isn’t something the Cavaliers are happy about.
“We definitely have to clean it up,” Gibson said of their home performances. “We have the best fans in the NBA and they need to see the best product that we can put out their on the floor. We are playing extremely hard; we just haven’t brought those games home. I think that if they continue to stand behind us, we will continue to work and we will definitely become a better home team.”
The third quarter was rough for the Cavaliers even more so then just giving up a lead. Mo Williams, who has been hampered by injury in training camp and so far this season, again injured his groin and was kept out the rest of the game. He missed the teams first three games with a similar injury.
Williams was visibly disturbed by his season’s start in the locker room.
“That’s the goal,” Williams said on whether he could play this weekend. “These injuries are tricky. You never know how your body will react to it. We will tackle it the right way, do the right things and I look forward to playing on Saturday.”