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Two for one: Cavs start strong, but fade, in 102-95 loss to Pacers

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With some better execution, the Cavs would have won this one.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Indiana Pacers Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cavs held a seven-point lead after the first quarter Friday against the Pacers. They followed it up with an 11-point second quarter. Despite playing the second half largely even, that second quarter flop crushed Cleveland. Let’s get into it.

NEGATIVE: Darius Garland struggles

Garland took his first career free throws on Friday. Other than that, Friday was a night to forget for the Cavs’ top pick.

In 26 minutes, Garland finished 0-10 from the field, 0-2 on three-pointers, 2-4 from the line and three assists. He missed a number of floaters and had issues finishing through the contact the Pacers’ defense sent at him. His shot chart shoes a lot of work from the mid-range and very little success getting in closer to either shoot at the rim and/get fouled:

On first watch, this feels like a ‘welcome to the NBA’ moment for Garland. This isn’t a reason to panic about Garland. It’s his fifth NBA game — matching his entire college total. It’s going to take him some time to figure this out and this should serve as a reference point.

POSITIVE: Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson helped keep the team afloat

Kevin Love had another good game, posting 22 points and 17 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double to start the season. But it was Clarkson and Sexton who made a number of tough shots and made the offense work.

Is this shot chart the most aesthetically pleasing chart? No. Between the two, they were 3-11 from three-pointers and did a lot of their work in the mid-range and in:

But this is what the Pacers defense gave the Cavs. Both Clarkson and Sexton are comfortable making shots in that part of the floor and were able to get them off when they wanted to. On a night where Garland struggled, Tristan Thompson came back down to Earth and everything on offense stuck, the Cavs needed this. This is what kept the group afloat.

NEGATIVE: The offense shut down in the second quarter

When they’ve been at their best this season, the ball has moved, the pace has been pushed and defenses don’t have time to settle in. In the second quarter, perhaps the worst offensive quarter for the Cavs this season, there was none of that. The ball stuck, players dribbled away the shot clock and Cleveland run unsuccessful pick-and-roll after unsuccessful pick-and-roll. It was not at all what you’d expect from a John Beilein offense, particularly one that looked crisp and scored 26 points in the first quarter.

To the Cavs’ credit, they rebounded in the second half and both moved the ball better while also getting key buckets from Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson. But that second quarter absolutely doomed them and shows that even one quarter like that can doom this group against good teams.