Kyrie Irving and company spotted the Bucks an early 13-5 lead and Milwaukee, lead by Monta Ellis’s 33 points, successfully held off any and all Cavalier comeback attempts to escape with a 90-86 victory. To their credit, Byron Scott’s Cavaliers never stopped fighting and it is somewhat remarkable, considering Cleveland had a NBA season high 27 turnovers, that they ended the night with only a four point deficit.
Cleveland shot a dismal 24% in the first quarter and after twelve minutes, trailed by a could’ve-been-worse score of 25-17. The second quarter wasn’t much better. When Tyler Zeller’s jumper fell through the net with 4:54 left on the second quarter clock, the Cavs were trailing by a score of 39-25 (it took them nearly twenty minutes to score their 25th point).
Then Kyrie Irving came to life.
With under four minutes to play in the first half, Our Reason To Watch These Games poured in eight points in roughly 70 seconds, cutting the Milwaukee lead to single digits and energizing dormant Cleveland crowd. The Cavs went into halftime with a little bit of hope, trailing by a could’ve-been-WAY-worse nine points, 52-43.
Cleveland gave themselves a chance after halftime, evening stealing a quick 57-56 lead in the third quarter, but it was never sustainable. Every time the Cavs got withing a single possession, it seemed that Monta Ellis was there to stem the tide with an easy basket. The Good Guys spent too much energy simply climbing back into the game and it doomed the Cavs in the end. Over the final three minutes, the Cavs let the Bucks have eight (8!) offensive rebounds, allowing the Bucks to extend possessions, run time off the clock and effectively close out the game.
This wasn’t the first time this season that the Cavs dug themselves an early hole and were forced to play catch-up.
If you feel that you’ve watched these Cavs lay a first quarter egg before, you’re not wrong.
By my count, the Cavs have scored 20 points or less in the first period six times this season (versus the Bulls, Suns, Pistons, Bulls, Wolves & Bucks). With a record that now stands at 5-19, this means that a full 25% of Cleveland’s games have started with off with a turd (and that’s not including their game against the Warriors, where they crossed my 20 point benchmark but still trailed 37-21).
Obviously, this isn’t good. I’m not sure what the answer is (asides from motivation!), but you can’t expect fans to show up for a game where there’s a 25% the team is going to come out flat.
Other random thoughts:
We had some injuries scares. Kyrie took a drive in the first half that ended with him smashing his face on the hardwood floor. Given how he fell, I was initially worried that might’ve dislocated his shoulder. Then I saw the replay and I was worried that we might see him be spit out some teeth. Fans also saw Anderson Varejao go to the locker room after getting kicked in the ankle by Samardo Samuels. Both Irving and Andy returned to play. Irving finished with 26 points, 3 boards and 3 assists and Varejao finished with 8 points and 18 boards (#NBABallot).
Kyrie’s defense: still not good. I’m not overly concerned that that second year guard isn’t good defensively. I assume it’ll come, Irving is too good and too competitive to not improve. But, at the moment, his D is abysmal. Really really abysmal.
I’m not sure what to make of CJ Miles. Over his last five games, Miles is averaging 20 points and is shooting a blistering 51% from behind the arc (career 33%). Against the Bucks, Miles finished with 17 points on 6-14 shooting (3-5 3pt) to go along with 4 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes. I just don’t like watching Miles play. I feel like he has a little too much Larry Hughes in his game. And unlike Hughes, I’m not sure what else Miles brings to the floor if his shot isn’t dropping. While CJ has shot the Cavs into some games (most notably versus the Lakers), his shots don’t seem to come in the flow of the offense and his teammates are often standing around watching him shoot.
Byron Scott’s rotations,whats up with that? Maybe I’m weird, but part of the reason I was excited for Kyrie to return was because I assumed, with the emergence of Jeremy Pargo, it meant I’d never have to watch Donald Sloan again. Yet here we are. Pargo got a DNP-CD against the Bucks and Sloan played 12 minutes and finished with two points and three assists. Omri Casspi also has two straight DNP-CDs, after averaging 15 minutes a night over the previous fourteen games. I definitely feel weird wondering aloud why Pargo and Casspi aren’t getting minutes, but some consistency would be nice, no?
Up Next. Cavs are in Madison Square Garden to finish out their four-games-in-five-nights stretch against Knicks tonight at 7:30.
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)