It seems unlikely that Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins’ return to Minnesota will cause quite the hubbub that the Cleveland Cavaliers witnessed in their latest game.
The Cavaliers look to put an embarrassing nationally televised loss behind them Saturday against the Timberwolves, who have dropped six straight after blowing a huge fourth-quarter lead against the NBA’s best team.
Cleveland (7-11) had a frenzied crowd on its side as LeBron James made his much-anticipated return to northeast Ohio on Thursday night, but the two-time MVP’s former team was no match for Miami. The Cavaliers fell behind by as many as 38 points – the same as James’ total for the night – in a 118-90 defeat that served as a bitter reminder of what they lost over the summer.
First-year coach Byron Scott seemed remarkably unfazed, however.
“We have got a young team so it doesn’t hurt me,” he said. “This is a learning process for our guys. A lot of guys that we have in our locker room haven’t been on a stage this big.
Eight players in the Cavaliers’ 10-man rotation did participate in the 2010 postseason. The only two who didn’t are Sessions and Hollins, who Cleveland acquired in an offseason trade from the Timberwolves (4-15) after the pair spent one season apiece with Minnesota.
The Cleveland player with the most postseason experience seemed considerably more bothered than Scott by his team’s fifth consecutive double-digit loss.
“It was an old-fashioned (butt-kicking),” forward Antawn Jamison told the Cavaliers’ official website. “… It should make us angry to the point that we learn from it. We’ve been embarrassed and we should never want to have this feeling again.”
Cleveland has won nine straight against the Timberwolves, but it won’t have James’ 30.1-point average from that stretch to turn to anymore.
Mo Williams has averaged 20.2 points in his last six games versus Minnesota, while Jamison averaged 24.3 in his last four games against the Timberwolves while with Washington.
Minnesota looked capable of beating anyone after three quarters in San Antonio on Friday night, when it built a 15-point lead on the NBA-best Spurs.
Nothing went right for the Timberwolves in the fourth, though. Minnesota missed 15 of 19 shots and committed six turnovers as San Antonio rallied to win 107-101.
“That’s what good teams do,” Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. “Good teams have the confidence that they’re going to come back and win. … Young teams, unfortunately, can’t figure out how to hold big leads.”
The Timberwolves have been much better at the Target Center, where they’re 3-5 and have been edged by an average of just 2.5 points. On the road, Minnesota’s been outscored by 14.1 points per game.
Minnesota’s second six-game slide certainly hasn’t come due to a lack of effort on Kevin Love’s part. The NBA’s leading rebounder – who has made the Timberwolves the league’s top team on the glass- has averaged 22.8 points and 18.8 rebounds in his last five contests after failing to score against the Lakers on Nov. 19.
Teammate Michael Beasley has rejuvenated his career in Minnesota after two up-and-down seasons in Miami. He’s had previous success against the Cavs. Beasley averaged 20.3 points in three games versus Cleveland last season.