Last night will go down as one of the more difficult evenings to swallow in this condensed 66-game campaign. The Cavaliers chipped paint off the rim at their end while they were helpless to stop the onslaught that was the Milwaukee Bucks offense. Milwaukee overwhelmed the Cavaliers right out of the gate, and other than Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers were unable to get anything going before it was far too late as the Bucks pushed to a 29-point lead at one point in the first half. The Bucks took this one 121-84, led by Brandon Jennings’s 28 points and Ersan Ilyasova’s 20, but this dismantling was entirely a team effort.
The best way I could describe the Cavaliers’ defense was “indifferent”. They did little to stop Milwaukee’s incredibly hot shooting (61% in the first half), especially from three-point range,where the Bucks hit 10-of-16. The Cavs were down just 29-22, but the Bucks pulled away with a 37-15 run that spanned the late first and nearly the entire second quarter. During that time, Mike Dunleavy Jr. came off the bench to hit four three pointers. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis carved up the defense with dribble penetration. Ersan Ilyasova scored on every person that tried to guard him. The Bucks are talented, especially with the addition of Ellis, make no mistake about it. However, they should not have been able to storm the Cavaliers like this on their home floor. Both Dan Gilbert and Byron Scott expressed frustration post-game with how the team has been playing at home. The wine and gold are now just 9-17 at home losing their last five with most of their signature wins coming on the road (Oklahoma City, Denver, Boston, etc.)
The plus side from this ugly affair? The Cavaliers that did produce were the three young guns and perceived “keepers” if you will. Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, and Tristan Thompson combined for 63 of the team’s 84 points. Irving kept the Cavaliers afloat in the first quarter with 13 points before things got incredibly out of hand in the second. Kyrie’s still having a more difficult time splitting those more concentrated double teams, as the rook had 6 turnovers, his fourth straight with 5+. But, his scoring continues to increase as the scoring burden increasingly falls upon him. Irving hit all six of his three-point shot attempts, and 11-of-20 overall, taking nine more shots than the next Cavalier. As for Gee, he continues to find ways to score, adding 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 8 rebounds. Thompson posted another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. My initial reaction after watching the horror and perusing the box score was, “Who cares what everyone else does!?” Anthony Parker was 2-for-10 for 6 points, and Antawn Jamison looked uninterested with just 4 shot attempts in 30 minutes. I echo the thoughts of many when I ask what exactly are these two veterans providing on the floor? I’m not saying cut them, but I am saying that I’d rather see the young players making the same mistakes or having the same consistency issues. If these two are such leaders, they can lead… from the bench.
This crime on the eyes of the Cavalier faithful didn’t come without injury. As Rick mentioned last night, Kyrie Irving left the game after three quarters with a right shoulder sprain. Now, if this was a playoff game, I’m guessing Kyrie could’ve played in the fourth, considering he injured the shoulder initially in the second quarter and came back to play after halftime. Kyrie made the trip to New York, but I agree with Rick that it would be a mild surprise if Irving was playing less than 24 hours later with so little to play for. The Cavaliers take on the Knicks at MSG tonight.
(Photo: Tony Dejak/AP)