CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers unraveled faster than a Halloween mummy costume made out of toilet paper.
Up as many as 16 in the first half, Cleveland imploded in the second and lost 107-104 to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“You should put your foot on the gas even more, put your foot on their neck,” Cavs backup guard Daniel Gibson said of his team’s 67-53 lead at intermission. “That’s the killer instinct we have to learn.”
In dropping their second game in as many nights after opening the season with an emotional win over Boston, the Cavs scored 67 points in the first half and 37 in the second.
More importantly, they continued their trend of playing poorly in the third quarter, when the Kings outscored them 31-15.
That run actually grew to 52-27 with 5:22 left in the game, giving Sacramento a 105-94 lead.
“We took a big exhale (at halftime) instead of the other attitude of wanting to go up 20,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said.
“The third quarter right now is our nemesis. We’ve got to make sure that when the third quarter starts, we have a different attitude.”
The Cavs did get close down the stretch, but that actually had more to do with Sacramento’s inability to bury them than anything they did.
Down 106-103, Cleveland got a chance for a miracle when Omri Casspi missed a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds left.
The Kings elected to foul Jawad Williams with 4.4 ticks on the clock rather than let the Cavs get off a 3-pointer, with Williams making the first free throw and intentionally missing the second.
Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins got the rebound and was fouled with 2.0 seconds left. With Cleveland out of timeouts, he missed the first and made the second, but Gibson’s desperation 60-footer failed to draw iron.
In a game Scott called a “tale of two halves,” everything went right for the Cavs over the first two periods.
With Anderson Varejao back in the starting lineup after a one-game absence and Mo Williams held out again as a precaution, Cleveland shot a sizzling .591 from the field (26-of-44) in the first half. Gibson, Ramon Sessions and Anthony Parker were absolutely on fire, combining for 39 points on 16-of-19 shooting.
Then the second half started – and the Cavs didn’t.
“We stopped running, we stopped attacking and they started to make everything,” Scott said.
Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 21 points on 6-of-20 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists, with four other starters joining him in double figures in scoring.
Casspi made six of seven 3-pointers en route to 20 points, Carl Landry had 17, Cousins had 14 to go along with 10 rebounds and Beno Udrih had 12 plus 11 assists.
Sessions, 1-of-10 from the field Friday in Toronto, led the Cavs with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, but after putting up four rebounds and three assists in the first half, he posted zeroes in both categories in the second.
Gibson had 20 points and seven assists, but six of his assists came in the first half. J.J. Hickson, who was lost defensively, had 15 points, while Jawad Williams had 13 points.
Antawn Jamison struggled mightily, going 1-of-7 from the field in the first half and not attempting a shot in the second.
All in all, it was not a good night for the Cavs, who tricked their fans instead of treating them.
“This is only the third game of the season,” Scott said. “We have a lot to learn about ourselves.”
Scott held Williams out for the third straight game simply as a precaution. If Williams gets through practice OK on Monday, Scott said the point guard would be “all systems go” Tuesday against Atlanta at The Q.
• Varejao said his father, who underwent heart surgery Friday in Cleveland, was back at home resting and “doing fine.” The center had eight points and nine rebounds against the Kings.
• Former Princeton coach Pete Carril, who helped perfect the offense Scott is now running with the Cavs, is an assistant with the Kings, while former Cleveland big man Darnell Jackson is playing spot minutes for Sacramento.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kings 107, Cavs 104
SACRAMENTO (107): Casspi 7-10 0-2 20, Landry 8-11 1-1 17, Cousins 5-10 4-6 14, Udrih 6-9 0-0 12, Evans 6-20 7-9 21, Dalembert 2-3 0-0 4, Thompson 3-7 2-2 8, Garcia 1-4 2-2 4, Head 1-2 0-0 3, Jackson 1-1 2-2 4, Greene 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 40-77 18-24 107.
CLEVELAND (104): Moon 3-7 1-1 7, Hickson 4-11 7-9 15, Varejao 3-6 2-6 8, Sessions 9-13 3-4 21, Parker 5-9 1-2 12, Gibson 8-16 1-1 20, Jamison 1-7 0-0 2, Hollins 2-4 2-2 6, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, J.Williams 4-6 3-4 13. Totals 39-80 20-29 104.
Sacramento 34 19 31 23 - 107
Cleveland 34 33 15 22 - 104
3-Point Goals-Sacramento 9-15 (Casspi 6-7, Evans 2-3, Head 1-2, Cousins 0-1, Garcia 0-2), Cleveland 6-19 (Gibson 3-6, J.Williams 2-3, Parker 1-2, Varejao 0-1, Moon 0-3, Jamison 0-4). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Sacramento 48 (Cousins 10), Cleveland 45 (Varejao 9). Assists-Sacramento 24 (Udrih 11), Cleveland 22 (Gibson 7). Total Fouls-Sacramento 21, Cleveland 19. Technicals-Sacramento defensive three second. A-20,562 (20,562).
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Atlanta
• WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
• WHERE: The Q
• TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM