All anyone in the national media likes to talk about after games like this is how a team “blew” a big lead, especially if the lead was in the first half. It is one of the most overused and incorrect terms in the NBA, though. This loss was not blown by the Cavaliers, and it was actually a pretty good game for several reasons.
First of all, no lead is ever safe in the NBA. Professional basketball players are too good of scorers to not go on a run and make a game close. Also, when teams get up by a lot of points, it is natural to let up just a little bit, which lets the other team crawl back into the game. The same thing happens in all levels of basketball, but it happens more often in the NBA because all of the teams have good players, even the bad teams. It’s difficult for the team in the lead to keep up that level of intensity, especially when it is a young team like the Cavaliers.
Also, the Cavaliers were playing without Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters, two players who usually start. This meant that two second-unit players would move up to the starting unit. Those two players, Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington both played well (Speights was outstanding actually), but that meant that the bench was short two of its main players.
So, the Cavaliers bench unit, which has been one of the strongest parts of the team in recent weeks, was outscored 70-21.
The lack of bench production meant that the Cavaliers offense slowed down, and that the starters had to play more minutes and likely were tired at the end. All of this helped to allow the Knicks to come back and win the game.
And while Knicks fans will say that the Cavaliers were helped when Carmelo Anthony went out of the game with an injury, I say that it probably helped the Knicks. Anthony is a great scorer, but he is not a great player (no matter what the national media tries to say). Without him in the lineup, the other Knicks rallied together and were able to get a better flow on offense.
I’m not saying that the Knicks are better without Anthony, because that is not true. I’m saying that with the team down by a lot points and still hurting from a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, the loss of Anthony just got the other players to work together more and play harder, and all of that helped them come back.
Also, the Knicks are a strong, veteran team. They have plenty of good players, and they were bound to make a comeback. I don’t believe the Knicks are a championship level team, but they are a playoff team, and playoff teams should be able to come back from big first half deficits, no matter whom they are playing.
The Cavaliers did a lot of really good things in this game, and it is great they had a chance to win at the end. The Cavaliers also certainly made plenty of mistakes, which young teams do, and they will learn from this loss.
And when they do learn from this loss and start holding onto big leads or winning more close games, games like the Monday night loss will be part of the reason why.
It wasn’t a bad loss for the Cavaliers. It was a good game that they ended up losing.