In the middle of the third quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-32) found themselves down 20 points to the Milwaukee Bucks (22-19). In most circumstances, it’s pretty safe to put the lid on a game when a team falls behind by such a large margin so late in the game. But in an incredible comeback capped off by a timely Wayne Ellington three pointer, the Cavaliers took back the lead and held on to win, 113-108. Newly minted All-Star Kyrie Irving led all Cavaliers with 35 points, while Dion Waiters added 16 for the Cavaliers. Forward Ersan Ilyasova led Milwaukee with 30 points, while Monta Ellis added 21.
The first quarter, with the Cavaliers winning the tip, saw both teams start off pretty slow. Milwaukee’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored the first basket for the Bucks after putting back his own miss. Offensively, the Cavaliers played at a quick pace, but were unable to put any consistent offense together. In the first quarter, the Cavs committed seven turnovers, which aided Milwaukee into leading 21-18 at the end of the period. Irving led the Cavaliers with six points in the quarter.
The second quarter saw Marreese Speights, the player many Cavalier fans are excited about, make his Wine and Gold debut at the beginning of the period. In the second quarter, the Cavs let the Bucks take a plethora of open threes, most of which were taken by Ilyasova. As they fell down by nine with 2:53 to go in the half, the Cavs offense sputtered even with Irving back in game. Milwaukee, on the other hand, got hot from the field, and kept a nine-point lead at the half.
With the Cavaliers in need of a momentum swing at the end of the period, the complete opposite happened instead. As the second half began, the Cavs were trading buckets with the Bucks. And once they started missing, the game quickly got out of hand. At the eight-minute mark, Milwaukee held a 16-point lead. At the six-minute mark, the Bucks held a 20-point lead. At that point, it appeared as if Milwaukee would cruise to a win. But with less than two minutes to go, and the Cavaliers down 15, something changed. Irving got hot, and ended up scoring 16 points in the third alone. His play brought the Cavaliers within nine as the quarter ended.
The fourth quarter, which saw the Cavaliers use a lineup entirely made up of reserves, continued the hot play that ended the third. Ellington made his Cavalier debut with this lineup. And after missing his first attempt, Ellington hit a three pointer to put the Cavs up 96-95. A Daniel “Boobie” Gibson three followed, putting the Cavaliers up 99-95. From there the Cavs stifled any Buck runs, and ended up winning, 113-108.
All in all, this was an incredibly impressive game for the Cavaliers. Both newcomers played key roles, Dion Waiters was sharp, Irving was his usual sensational self and Luke Walton did not make any stupid mistakes. Coming back from 20 points –against a solid squad like Milwaukee – showed that this Cavaliers team has some fight in it, and both Speights and Ellington appear to be new fixtures in the rotation. Speights gave Tristan Thompson some rest, and that is a good thing moving forward. Ellington will have a harder time receiving consistent minutes once C.J. Miles returns, but after tonight I think he’ll at least get a fair shake. Also, imagine this team if Anderson Varejao is on it. The frontcourt would have four solid players all receiving minutes, and that could make the Cavaliers a threat to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs. But alas, we will never see how that plays out; at least for this season.
The Cavaliers will take on the Toronto Raptors tomorrow night at 7 p.m. live on Fox Sports Time Ohio.