Cavs play Hawks in first home game of post-James era
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Two games into the second post-LeBron James era, a trend is developing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And it is not a good one, especially in the opening half as the Cavaliers fell behind by double digits, mounted a comeback and fell short in losses to the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Cavaliers are hoping to reverse their trend of slow starts Sunday night in the home opener against the Atlanta Hawks.
For the first time since 2009-10, the Cavaliers are off to a 0-2 start and they are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2004-05. They are hoping not to repeat what unfolded Wednesday at Toronto and two nights later in Minnesota.
In the season-opening 116-104 loss, Cleveland allowed 32 points in the second quarter and trailed 60-47 at halftime. On Friday, it was even worse as the Cavaliers surrendered 39 in the second quarter and faced a 71-54 halftime deficit in an eventual 131-123 defeat.
"We start good every game and then the second quarter costs us too much," forward Cedi Osman told reporters. "I really enjoy and I can see that everybody enjoys playing with each other. But the second quarter we have to learn how to play better defense. We gave up a lot of points in transition. Those are the small (things), but very important."
Compounding matters is an offense that is unable to keep pace. While the Cavaliers are allowing foes to shoot 50.9 percent (28-of-55) in the second period, they are shooting 38.6 percent (17-of-44) in that quarter.
"Against teams like Toronto and Minnesota, very good teams, you can't dig yourself a hole like that and try to come back," Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. "It takes too much. We talked about it after the game. Let's start that way. Let's not dig a hole and then start playing harder and harder once we get behind."
The Cavaliers will be playing their first regular-season home game without James on the roster since April 16, 2014. The only remaining player on the team from that game is Tristan Thompson.
On Friday, Kevin Love scored 25 points while Osman added 22 points. Osman has scored 39 points in his first two games occupying the forward spot previously held by James.
Love scored 16 of his points in a furious third-quarter rally after shooting 5 of 18 in the season opener and the Cavaliers were encouraged by placing six in double figures and almost coming back by getting the deficit to four points twice in the final quarter.
"We have to learn how to play defense for 48 minutes, not just three quarters or 20 minutes," Osman said. "We will. We're a young team and we have a lot of good players who work hard. We just have to learn, which we will. We just have to keep playing hard."
Atlanta is off to its first 0-2 start since dropping the first nine games in 2005-06. The Hawks can also relate to Cleveland's issues in the second quarter based on their first two games.
Atlanta allowed 47 points in the second quarter of Wednesday's 126-107 loss at New York. The Hawks followed it up by yielding 40 second-quarter points in Friday's 131-117 loss at Memphis.
The Hawks have been outscored 89-53 in their first two second quarters. They allowed the Knicks to shoot 67.9 percent (19-of-28) in the second quarter Wednesday and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 60.9 percent (14-of-23) in the second quarter, doing so while shooting a combined 41.4 percent (17-of-41).
Updated October 20, 2018