Are the Cavaliers collapsing down the stretch?

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) fight for the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Atlanta. The Hawks won in overtime 126-125. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

The Cavaliers blew a 26-point, fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Hawks. 

The story:

On Sunday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked to be coasting to their 52nd win of the season when they held a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter of their game against the Atlanta Hawks. Thanks to Paul Millsap, some questionable officiating, and a truly bad quarter, minutes later they found the game tied and heading to overtime after the Hawks outscored the Cavs 44-18 in the fourth quarter.

The Cavs then couldn’t get it done in OT, falling 126-125, another dispiriting loss for a team that’s had a very up-and-down month.

How did the Cavs lose?:

How did the Cavs’ lose Sunday to an Atlanta team with a history of epic comebacks against them? Let us count the ways:

  • Eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
  • An offense that reverted to one-on-one play. It always seems to petrify in the crunch
  • A five-second inbounds violation on LeBron James.
  • Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving’s confused inbounds pass attempt that became a breakaway Atlanta layup.
  •  A phantom fifth foul on James (Tim Hardaway Jr., who simply lost control of the ball on a floater, drew it.)
  • An even more unseen, uncommitted, and unbelievable sixth and disqualifying foul on James (Millsap, flailing on a clumsy pantomime of a foul on a rebound, drew it.)
  • And finally a jump ball when the two Hawks tying up Irving were standing out of bounds.

Whats up with the defense?:

The Cavaliers are a strangely built team when it comes to defense. They had hoped that signing Andrew Bogut would help them with rim protection, but he hurt himself in the first game and was gone before he learned everyone’s name. So what that left them with was a small, aging team – not exactly what you’re looking for in a top NBA defense. Look at the way the roster is currently built. For rim protection, the Cavaliers have Tristan Thompson and … well, that’s it. Larry Sanders is a wild card currently on the D-League team for the Cavaliers, but it’d be hard to expect him to come in and provide real minutes for them in the playoffs. So the Cavaliers have one serviceable big, then LeBron and Kevin Love who can bang a little bit, and then wing players.

Everything was going well early:

But Paul Millsap was en fuego!:

Cavs critical of the refs:

“It wasn’t a foul on my sixth foul,” said LeBron James, who fouled out with 1:52 remaining in overtime and the Cavs up by three, for contact with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap while jostling for rebounding position. “I knew I had five [fouls]. I knew the ball was going long. So I may have grazed Millsap a little bit, but I mean, throughout the course of a game [that happens]. I didn’t push him or anything like that.” … “He told me that I’m not allowed to call timeout because he didn’t know who had possession of the ball,” James said. “And I was the one who entered the ball to Kyrie. And as soon as I seen Millsap go trap Kyrie in the short corner, I looked at him and called timeout twice — at least twice — and he wasn’t even paying me no attention. And that’s when the jump ball happened. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘I can’t call timeout because I don’t know who has possession of the ball. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know the tie up.’ I said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense because we have the ball. I entered the ball to Kyrie, so you shouldn’t even be worried about the tie up or not. I’m calling it as soon as I saw Kyrie is getting tied up in the corner.’ So I’ve never heard that one before. I’ve never heard that explanation before in my life.”

Coach Tyronn Lue:

“Jumping out to that lead, being up 26, that’s who we are and that’s how we’re capable of playing. Everything went wrong for us in that fourth quarter. Every single thing. From inbounding the ball to jump balls, to whatever. Hats off to those guys, they did a good job of coming back in that fourth,” Lue said.

Kyrie Irving:

“How much is the fine for talking about the refs?” Irving said when asked about that charge call. “It’s like $50 [thousand], $25? Not worth it. Not worth it, so sorry. I had some good conversation with the refs — just a few plays that didn’t go our way. That’s not the kind of the first step that led to the breakdown of what happened in that fourth quarter and why it extended the game. There were some things that could’ve gone a different way but didn’t, and now we just got to move on from here.”

What do you think? What is wrong with the Cavs?

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