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MINNEAPOLIS – The Cleveland Cavaliers still haven’t figured out a winning formula.

Despite taking a 14-point lead early in the second half, the exhausted, road-weary Cavs ended their five-game road trip with a 110-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland went 2-3 on the road. Away from the friendly confines of the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is 9-13.

The Timberwolves have won six of their last seven and suddenly find themselves in the top six of the Western Conference.

“We built a lead and stopped doing what was right and what helped us build a lead,” Cavs coach J.J. B. Bickerstaff after defeat. “We let them get back into the game by turning the ball over and forcing hard shots instead of taking what was there. I think it’s part of our growth and understanding that you can’t be bored with success. Tonight I thought it was obvious.’

Bickerstaff spoke before the game Saturday night about it being more of a mental challenge. The fifth city in 10 days. A third different time zone. The last stop before going home.

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For a while, it seemed that the Cavs were ready to pass that weighty test. No excuses.

After trailing throughout the opening quarter, the Cavs took their first lead at 10:24 of the second. They stayed ahead for all but 20 seconds over the next two quarters combined. They took a three-point lead into the fourth.

Twelve minutes fell between them and the first triumphant voyage.

But the Cavs couldn’t muster the energy to finish. Cleveland lost its lead early in the fourth quarter and held off another rally, winning 33-22 in the fourth.

“We had too many mental lapses and didn’t play well enough to win,” Bickerstaff said. “The Timberwolves outplayed us. I think it’s that simple. We didn’t do enough tonight. Top to bottom, we didn’t do enough to win this game.”

Cavs star guard Donovan Mitchell, who missed Saturday’s morning shootaround due to illness, had an unusual night. Mitchell finished with just 14 points, going 5 of 16 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range.

Cleveland bigs Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley tried to pick up the slack. Each scored 19 points. Mobley overcame an injury scare late in the first half that left the organization holding its breath. After clashing knees with Timberwolves swingman Anthony Edwards, the 21-year-old Cavaliers forward remained in the locker room early in the third quarter, replaced by Caris LeVert in the second-half starting lineup. But Mobley was eventually able to shake off the sore knee and rejoined the team, logging 31 total minutes, including 17 in the second half.

Explosion guard Darius Garland scored 15 points and made 4 assists. LeVert had 12 off the bench.

But the Cavs’ offense couldn’t execute against the high-powered Wolves, who forced 18 turnovers on the night, five in the final quarter, and turned those costly mistakes into 28 points.

Edwards scored a team-high 26 points for Minnesota. Naz Reid added 17 points off the bench. Jalen Nowell had 16. Overall, Minnesota’s secondary outscored Cleveland 56-27.

After playing just 13 minutes in the first half, Timberwolves starting center Rudy Gobert was sidelined at halftime with a sore right groin.

It will be another long flight home for the Cavs. They have had six separate multi-city road trips so far this season and have yet to leave those trips with a winning record. The feeling of walking off the floor of Target Center in Minnesota late Saturday night has become all too familiar.

“I think it comes from experience. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Mitchell said. “We’re getting to a point where it’s time to go, you know what I mean? We feel it. We had a chance to go 3-2 on this road trip and we had a chance to go 4-1 with what happened in Utah. But we didn’t. We have to start taking it. If we want to be who we want to be, we have to win along the way. Just can’t be a home team. We have moments. We have exposures. But now we have to put it all together.”


The Cavs will head home for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Tip-off at 3:00 p.m

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