No LeBron James. No Kyrie Irving. No Tristan Thompson. No problem?
Not exactly. The Cleveland Cavaliers notched a 106-100 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, though it was far from pretty at various points of the game. Coach David Blatt noted at halftime that the Cavaliers didn't defend well in any facet of the game in the first half, and I am not entirely sure it got much better in the third quarter with the starters still on the court. Some of it is to be expected with James and Thompson out, but against a team like the Bucks, you'd at least like to see better transition defense.
So that's the negative. The positive? Kevin Love picked up right where he left on in Rio, and capitalized on easy looks generated by several Cavaliers. Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters all found Love for wide open three point looks, and Kevin Love knows what to do with those. He's just an incredibly smart player, and can intuitively find soft spots in the defense on the perimeter for space. It's apparent as he trawls the baseline making cuts as well. He finished with 25 points on 11 shots in 21 minutes. He dished out two assists, including one on a fun cut by Waiters, and was 5-7 from three point range.
And Waiters, for much of the game, stayed within himself and scored with efficiency. Waiters turned the ball over five times to just two assists, but this team won't ask him to take on the role he had tonight very often. He will be asked to spot up, keep defenses on their heels, and get out in transition. If tonight was any indication, he will be able to do that just fine. 23 points on 13 shots is a line I really am not used to seeing from Waiters, but boy is it pretty. With the Cavaliers scuffling a little bit early in the 3rd quarter, Waiters, without taking the team outside its offense, made a huge impact on the game by hitting shots that the defense gave him. For the most part. It was a great sign of what he could be for this team.
Dellavedova dished out nine assists to three turnovers, and looked particularly good in the first quarter. Joe Harris played smart basketball and hit a couple three pointers. Mike Miller appears to be having some trouble finding his range, but with his pedigree, it's not something you worry about.
The Cavaliers head to Cincinnati tomorrow night. LeBron James will play, Tristan Thompson is questionable, and Kyrie Irving will be out. What did you guys see tonight?