Well, that was not fun.
The Cleveland Cavaliers watched an eight-point lead evaporate in the final 4:50, failing to score on their final 10 possessions en route to a 106-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings closed the game on a 19-0 run to stun the hometown crowd and hand Cleveland their tenth loss of the season, and just the second at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse this season.
No Mitchell makes a difference
Cavs superstar Donovan Mitchell sat out with a sore lower right leg, and the offense naturally had difficulty getting things going. Cleveland only scored 20 points in the first quarter and trailed by 11 before rebounding to tie the game at the half. Without Mitchell to take the defense’s attention, the Kings were able to key in on Darius Garland and ended up limiting him to 41% shooting. Mitchell has been a one-man wrecking crew so far this season, and Cleveland has certainly leaned on him at times this season - especially in late-game situations. Having a stabilizer like Mitchell would have made all the difference and stopped the bleeding - and bleeding is putting it lightly.
(Lack of) late game exectution
Sacramento’s defense is ranked 22nd in the league, so for the Cavs to not score even a single point in almost five minutes is a difficult feat to accomplish. Even scoring 15 points in the full 12-minute fourth quarter is a startling statistic for a team that, even without Mitchell, should have enough firepower to score anything. The offense ground to an absolute halt when it needed to put some points on the board, something we saw last season as well when opponents keyed in on Garland. To compound things, the Kings were also without their star guard De’Aaron Fox. So there is even less of a reason to surrender a 19-0 run.
This is a common theme so far with this Cavaliers team, who so far this season has struggled closing out games. They notably lost to the Los Angeles Clippers (also after beating the Lakers the night prior) in early November, and nearly blew a game against the paltry Charlotte Hornets ten days later - requiring two overtime periods to pull out a win. Add this heartbreaker against the Kings to the list of excruciating losses.
Putting the pain in paint
The Cavs are one of the better teams in the NBA in overall defense, but this was not a display of that ranking. Kings star Domantas Sabonis lived in the paint for the majority of the game, totaling 18 points and 19 rebounds. Cavs’ center Jarrett Allen, who ended the game with five fouls, was forced to loosen his defense to avoid that fatal sixth foul. Sacramento also shot 48% from deep, including six three-pointers from rooking Keegan Murray, and 53% from the floor in total. The Cavaliers just did not have it tonight on the defensive end, and the result shows in the record column.
Up next: Cleveland will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at Rocket Mortage Fieldhouse on Saturday (12/11) at 7:30.