The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to pull out a win against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight. The game started off well with the Cavaliers rolling on offense and getting out to an early lead fueled by Kevin Love. However, that lead did not last long, as a combination of poor defense and good play from the Bucks caused the Cavs to blow their lead and fall behind by as many as 11 points.
The catalysts for the Cavs' comeback were Kyrie Irving and a rare appearance from Mike Miller. After the insertion of Miller into the lineup in the fourth quarter, the Cavs turned an 11-point Bucks lead into a two-point defect in just over a minute and a half. LeBron, Love and Irving all scored 26, 27 and 28 points respectively and provided just enough offense to squeak out the win.
While the game cycled between hard to watch and thrilling, it still was a much-needed win for the Cavs who are now two games above .500. Finding a way to win ugly and develop a thicker skin is part of the maturation process that this team will need to go through and, the Bucks are not a team to be taken lightly.
The Cavs play next on Thursday when they travel to New York to take on the Knicks. It should be a good opportunity to get revenge on the Knicks for crashing the party that was the home opener.
Thoughts from the game:
- Kevin Love is ridiculously good at basketball. Going to him early and often creates havoc for the opposition and makes everything easier for the team. He appears to have busted out of his shooting slump and is finding his groove within the Cavs' offense.
- Speaking of the offense, it's clear to everybody that it functions best when the ball is moving and they are not reliant on isolation ball. The issue in tonight's game was that the ball began to stick as soon as the bench came in. Even with Kyrie Irving on the floor with the bench at times, the second unit failed to generate penetration and any passing failed to generate good looks. In order for the offense to function consistently, the Cavs must avoid falling in love with the jumper and force the defense to move. Once they get penetration, they can kick the ball out or swing it in order to get quality looks. If they don't do that, they will continue to have uneven performances.
- Jabari Parker is a ton of fun. He is in better shape now than he was at the start of the season and his athleticism really is beginning to shine.
- The defense was well below the level we've seen over the last three games. The Cavs simply failed to rotate countless times which led to a steady diet of open shots for the Bucks. Defensive limitations exist for this team, but a lack of effort should never be excusable. The aggressive hedging on the pick and roll was exposed by Brandon Knight and the Bucks, and it resulted in several easy opportunities.
- LeBron James had a bad game by his standards. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well and was irresponsible with the ball. He made some big plays when it really counted, but I think the Cavs would benefit from running the offense through Kyrie more frequently. Of course LeBron's bad games are still pretty decent, but there were stretches where he was hurting the Cavs with his turnovers and poor shooting.
- While we're on the subject of Kyrie Irving, how good has he been this season? Tonight was one of his more spectacular performances of the season. Early in the game he deferred to the hot hand in Kevin Love, while still remaining active in other areas. When the Cavs needed a spark, he took over with dazzling moves and clutch shot making. On a night where LeBron and Love combined for 13 turnovers, Irving was much more careful with only one turnover on the night. He continues to be the most consistent performer on the team and continues his ascension to becoming one of the league's best players.
- SIGNS OF LIFE FROM MIKE MILLER! The Cavs desperately need to find another shooter to go with the starting lineup. Miller did a good job defensively on Giannis Antetokounmpo and actually managed to hit a couple of shots. While he has been a corpse so far this season, it would be a huge boost to the Cavs if they could rely on him to bring some offense.
- Dion Waiters did not play much in this game. He received eight minutes of playing time in the first half and rode the pine for the entire second half. He had a nice pass to Thompson and missed his only shot on the night. While I didn't feel he did anything that would warrant a benching, it's clear that David Blatt does not have a lot of confidence in him at the moment.