The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-31, 11th in the East), losers of 5 straight and 8 of their last 9 since their impressive mini win streak against Denver, Oklahoma City, and Houston have now officially fallen behind Detroit in the standings and have Sacramento square in their sights.
The Cavaliers’ next opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks (23-27, 9th in the East) and in the middle of a chase of their own, trying to track down the New York Knicks for the 8th spot in the East. The last time these teams played each other was right after the Monta Ellis trade. Ellis didn’t play in that game, but the Bucks have gone 4-3 with Ellis in the starting lineup. However, they have lost 3 of their last 5 overall coming off a season high 6 game win streak. So it’s been an up and down fight for the Bucks as well.
Ellis was supposed to be the extra piece to push the Bucks into the playoffs, but Ellis has struggled adjusting to a new team and a very different system. With the Warriors, he was averaging 21.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 3.4 rebounds, but so far in Milwaukee he’s averaging just 15.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.7 rebounds. His 3pt% has dropped from .321 to .143 and his overall FG% is down from .433 to .410.
In addition to Ellis’s struggles, the Bucks will also be without Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, and Kwame Brown due to injury. The Cavaliers have played Milwaukee pretty tough in their previous games this season, but the Cavaliers have especially struggled on defense. Brandon Jennings has been tough in two matchups and the Bucks have really had their way inside with the Cavaliers.
I’m not sure if much will change this time around. Delfino was huge for the Bucks against the Cavaliers last game, and his presence will be missed. But the Bucks still probably just have too much interior size and strength for the Cavaliers. Until Anderson Varejao comes back, the Cavaliers are really going to struggle with teams with any kind of size whatsoever.
Having said that, though, Milwaukee really is a middling NBA team right now. They’re not great offensively, they’re not great defensively, and outside of controlling the turnover battles, there’s not a ton of things Milwaukee really excels at as a team. This is precisely the type of team you typically like to try to end a losing streak against. Playing at home, this is a team the Cavaliers can beat.
But as with any game now, it’s not going to be easy. The Cavaliers are going to have to fight, scratch, and claw their way to any wins as long as Varejao and Daniel Gibson are out. The Cavaliers are thin in the frontcourt and thin in the backcourt. It’s been a long time since the Cavaliers’ starting unit all clicked together as one, and this would be a prime opponent for that to happen against. However, as we’ve seen time and time again, these are the types of teams the Cavaliers so frequently come out sluggish against.
Just once it would be nice to see the team come out focused and giving good energy against a mediocre team at home. If that happens, who knows, they might actually snap this losing streak. If they don’t, though, expect another ugly and barely watchable game.