MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Cavaliers still haven’t figured out the winning formula on the road.
Despite leading by a game-high 14 points early in the second half, the exhausted and road-weary Cavs capped their five-game cross-country tour with a 110-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland went 2-3 with this roadie. He is 9-13 away from the friendly confines of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The Timberwolves have won six of their last seven and are suddenly in the top 6 in the Western Conference.
“We built a lead and stopped doing the things that were right and the things that helped us build a lead,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said after the loss. “We allowed them to get back into the game by turning the ball over and taking hard, forced shots instead of taking what was there. I think it’s part of our growth and understanding that you can’t get bored of success. Tonight, I thought that was obvious.”
Bickerstaff spoke before the game about Saturday night as a mental challenge. Fifth city in 10 days. Third different time zone. The last stop before going home.
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For a while it looked like the Cavs were ready to pass that ordeal. No apologies.
After trailing the entire first quarter, the Cavs took their first lead at 10:24 of the second. They stayed in front for nearly 20 seconds over the next two quarters combined. They took a three-point lead in the fourth.
Twelve minutes stood between them and their first winning road trip.
But the Cavs couldn’t muster the energy and finish. Cleveland lost its lead early in the fourth quarter and did not have another rally, being outscored 33-22 in the deciding quarter.
“We had too many mental lapses and we didn’t play well enough to win,” Bickerstaff said. “The Timberwolves outplayed us. I think it’s that easy. We didn’t do enough tonight. From top to bottom we didn’t do enough to win this game.”
Cavs star guard Donovan Mitchell, who missed shootaround Saturday morning due to illness, had an unusual night off. Mitchell finished with just 14 points on 5-for-16 from the field and 2-for-9 from 3-point range.
Cleveland greats Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley tried to take over. They each scored 19 points. Mobley overcame an injury scare late in the first half that had the organization holding its breath. After colliding in the knees with Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards, the 21-year-old Cavaliers forward remained in the locker room early in the third quarter, being replaced in the starting second half by Caris LeVert. But Mobley was finally able to loosen up his sore knee and rejoined the team, logging 31 total minutes, including 17 in the second half.
Point guard Darius Garland added 15 points and four assists. LeVert chipped in 12 off the bench.
But the Cavs’ offense couldn’t execute down the stretch against the energetic Wolves, who forced 18 turnovers on the night, five in the fourth quarter, and converted those costly errors into 28 points.
Edwards scored a game-high 26 points for Minnesota. Naz Reid added 17 off the bench. Jaylen Nowell scored 16. In all, Minnesota’s second unit outscored Cleveland’s, 56-27.
After playing just 13 minutes in the first half, Timberwolves starting center Rudy Gobert was ruled out at halftime with a sore right groin.
It will be another long flight home for the Cavs. They have had six separate multi-city road trips so far this season and have yet to leave any of those trips with a winning record. The feeling of walking off the floor of Minnesota’s Target Center on Saturday night has become all too familiar.
“I think it comes from experience. I think that’s the biggest. We’re getting close to a point where it’s time to go, you know what I mean? We feel that. We had a chance to go 3-2 on this road trip and we had a chance to go 4-1 with what happened in Utah. But we didn’t. We have to start collecting it. If we want to be who we want to be, we have to win along the way. It just can’t be a home team. We have moments. We have flashes. But now we have to put it all together.”
Until next time
The Cavs will head home for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Tipoff is set 3 pm
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