Coming off of an ugly loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers went to Milwaukee looking for redemption against the Bucks. And while they lost the game 105-102 on a game winning shot from Brandon Jennings, they did find redemption in a sense. Kyrie Irving lead the Cavaliers with 27 points, and Anderson Varejao chipped in 20 along with 17 rebounds. Mike Dunleavy paced Milwaukee with 29.
The first quarter was the Cavaliers we saw against the Washington Wizards. They were shooting well, they were playing defense, and as a whole, controlling the tempo. Alonzo Gee was strong early, shooting the ball well from all spots on the court.
The second quarter was where the wheels fell off. With every starter on the bench at one point or another, the Bucks went on a 31-16 run, and opened the game wide open. The backcourt lineup of Donald Sloan, C.J. Miles, and Luke Walton was simply outmatched by Milwaukee. Sans a late run, the second period was all Milwaukee. The half closed with Cleveland down 55-49.
The entire second half was a back and forth battle that featured back and forth basketball. Kyrie Irving woke up from a slow start, and starting playing the elite superstar he is. Dunleavy kept draining threes for Milwaukee, and the game went down to the wire. With less than a second on the clock, Irving hit a clutch floater to tie the game at 102 all. But after a Milwaukee timeout to move the ball across half court, Jennings nailed a thee pointer to win the game. The loss dropped Cleveland to 1-2 overall, while Milwaukee improved to 2-0.
For the Cavaliers there two major things that can be improved on. First off is their free throwing shooting. They shot 18-29 from the free throw line, an awful 62.1%. If the Cavaliers make four more free throws (which would have put them at 79.3%) they win this game. But that isn’t even the biggest problem.
To put it bluntly, the Cavaliers second unit is awful. The drop off from the line up of Irving/Waiters/Gee to Sloan/Gibson/Walton is absolutely huge. The skill disparity between the two units is so large that it’s like two different teams are playing. Even C.J. Miles and Tyler Zeller, two players who could be starters, aren’t producing off the bench. As a whole, the Cavaliers bench was outscored 65-12 and had a total plus/minus of negative 82. If the Cavaliers are even going to be decent NBA team this season, that statistic needs to greatly improve.
As I mentioned before, the Cavaliers should feel a sense of redemption even though they lost tonight. They played hard, and unlike in the Chicago game, they were competitive throughout. If the bench plays a little better, or they nail a few more free throws, they win this game. This game should serve as a learning experience for one the youngest teams in the NBA.
The Cavs will next play the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday in LA. It is the second game a six game, 11 day road trip.