MINNEAPOLIS – Sunday night’s matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves became a battle of styles.
The Timberwolves style won, giving the Cavs their second straight loss, 109-104, and their fourth in their last five games.
The burly Cavaliers operated non-stop inside, trying to capitalize on their economies of scale, while the Timberwolves played on the edge with speed, quickness, athleticism and 3-point shooting. In many ways, it became a simple math equation. Three is greater than two.
Cleveland dominated the color again, as head coach JB Bickerstaff likes. The Cavs scored 72 points inside, compared to just 42 for the Wolves. That advantage, however, was negated by Minnesota’s relentless outside attack, which from long range ended plus-36 and hit 16 out of 40 (40%). The Cavs, meanwhile, were only 4 out of 16 (25%).
“I think the way we play, I don’t think we should get away from it,” said Andre Drummond after the game. “We just missed recordings today. We fought defensively. We know what it takes to beat them, why we lost this game today, and how we beat ourselves. I just have to take these details and post them in-game tomorrow. “
A stretch towards the end of the first half helps sum up Sunday’s result – and played the biggest role in turning the game around. With the Cavs in the lead by 12 points and heading into halftime with momentum and a comfortable edge, some costly sales helped get Minnesota’s transition game underway. Those two timely 3s after Cleveland mistakes in the final minutes were all the Wolves needed to bring new life to the break.
Rather than chasing double digits, Minnesota was faced with a much more manageable six-point hole that essentially wiped out Cleveland’s 22 minutes of hard work on either end. That late quarter turnaround carried over into the second half when the Cavs abandoned the principles that sparked a strong start. They were surpassed 54-43 in the last 24 minutes.
Much like the Friday night loss to New York, when the pressure increased and the odds increased, the Cavs played as an offensive rather than a team.
“I thought our decisions were difficult,” said Bickerstaff. “We keep having conversations about how to take singles and what is available to us. I thought we got away from it. I feel like we’re pushing to do too much right now. Everyone is trying to get us in the right direction and do the right thing, but I feel like we are pushing for it and that puts us in difficult situations. “
With such a discrepancy from the deep, offensive efficiency was a must. It had to be about ball movement, body movement, sharing of wealth and organic alternation. While they were shooting 48.8% off the field and showing a Cavs-like ball, there were also too many negligent mistakes at inopportune moments, either from wasting 19-turnover possessions turning the Timberwolves into 29 points, or poor shot selection.
Darius Garland and Collin Sexton were the main culprits, making five and four mistakes, respectively.
“That’s the only reason we lost. I made too much sales, ”said Garland. “I think we know what to fix. And I think it’s more difficult for our guards because we have to take care of the ball. If we take care of the ball, we’re a really good team. “
Drummond led the offensive, scoring 25 points on 22 rebounds. He became the fifth active player to have 9,000 career points and at least 8,000 rebounds, joining LeBron James, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyson Chandler. With Bickerstaff preaching all season, individual awards mean nothing if they lose.
Garland threw in 17 points and five assists. Sexton had 16 points. Rookie Isaac Okoro reached his career high with 13 points in the 6-of-10 shooting.
Timberwolve’s first overall winner Anthony Edwards poured in 23 points, including 4 out of 7 from a distance. Malik Beasley earned him 23 points and scored 5-11 from a long distance. D’Angelo Russell scored 19 points and lost a couple of triple points in the fourth quarter when the Cavs tried to make a late run.
There’s a new saying in the NBA: 3-pointers are the big offset. The Cavs have seen this firsthand.
In addition to spending some of his early years as an assistant coach with the Timberwolves, Bickerstaff attended the University of Minnesota, where he bonded with Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders.
Bickerstaff and Saunders both learned from their NBA fathers.
“Ryan and I actually got close because he was doing his thesis in college at the University of Minnesota on the sons of coaches who later become coaches,” said Bickerstaff. “He reached out to me and asked if he and I could talk about it. And we had that conversation and from that point on we kept building a great relationship. No better guy, no better basketball mind in the game. “
The Cavs will return home for the second game of a one-on-one against the Timberwolves on Monday night. Tipoff is set to 8 p.m.
New Cavs Face Masks For Sale: Here, you can purchase Cleveland Cavaliers-themed face covers for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NBA proceeds were donated to charity.
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