In theory, there are few things in high-level basketball simpler than an inbounds pass. When compared to beating a defense with full knowledge of every set a team runs or the difficulty of stopping a scorer at his best, the simple task of getting the ball into active play seems pretty easy. Sure, really athletic and well-trained players are trying to stop such a thing from happening, but the degree of difficulty is fairly low.
Don't tell that to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With 2.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Monday night's home game against the Dallas Mavericks, two missed free throws from Monta Ellis gave the Cavs a chance to tie the game down 100-97. Of course, that opportunity would have to start with a successful inbounds pass following their timeout. That turned out to be a big problem.
That's Jarrett Jack looking to make the pass, with Kyrie Irving doing most of the running to get open and C.J. Miles finally receiving the ball after the five-second violation had been called. While Irving starts moving pretty much from the beginning, the secondary options don't exactly pop up quickly. While Jack was the one stuck with the ball, this turnover sure looks like a team-wide failure that led directly to a 102-97 loss.
It's a shame, too, because the Cavaliers nearly completed an improbable comeback. Down 24 points in the final minute of the first half and as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Cavs battled back to come within striking distance. It can't be fun to consider that they couldn't force overtime in part due to a relatively basic mistake.
However, it likely hurts even more because the Cavaliers played out a similar scenario just a few weeks ago. On January 5, Cleveland almost made it out of a 16-point fourth-quarter hole, only to see Earl Clark step on the sideline while looking to get the pass into play. It can't feel good to have two such inbounds malfunctions occur on potential game-tying possessions after impressive comebacks.
The best solace, I suppose, is that this can't happen another time this season. Or maybe it's best not to tempt fate.
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