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Final Score: Cleveland Cavaliers fall to the Milwaukee Bucks 118-101

The Milwaukee Bucks made the Cavaliers pay for a flat effort on Tuesday night.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In what might be a showdown between the present and future of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Bucks 118-101. The Bucks could possibly become a significant threat to the Cavs during the playoffs in the distant future, and tonight was an example of what makes them so dangerous.

The game started with the Cavs looking like a dominant well-oiled machine. J.R. Smith busted out of his slump with a couple of early threes and the balanced attack got the team out to an early lead. Unfortunately the good times didn’t last for long. A combination of turnovers and offensive miscues let the Bucks back into the game, and once the floodgates opened, it became difficult to force them shut once again. It didn’t help that the team came out with one of its worst defensive efforts of the season. Milwaukee’s dedication to attacking the paint and forcing the issue gave the Cavaliers a lot of trouble in the first half. They went into the break trailing 58-54, but trailing 36-20 in points in the paint.

If I could sum up the Cavs first half defense in one vine, it would be this:

Despite some signs of life to start the second half, the defensive effort and attention to detail simply wasn’t there from the Cavaliers. The team continued to play sloppy, unfocused basketball and the Bucks capitalized on it.

At one point Lue decided to send a message to his starters by subbing in DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae, Mike Dunleavy Jr., James Jones and Chris Anderson. I’m not sure what the exact message was, but I think it’s fair to assume it was some variation of “you can’t screw around THIS much.”

Anyways, this game was aggressively not great from the Cavs. Hopefully Lue’s message is heard and they come out with a purpose in Thursday’s showdown against the L.A. Clippers.

Thoughts from the game:

  • Milwaukee feels like a place where the Cavs would usually start slow. Despite a poor first couple possessions, the team quickly got it together and recorded 22 points in the first six minutes of the game. The also had five assist on their seven field goals over that stretch.
  • LeBron had a little bit of a weird night. He started the game looking disinterested, quickly snapped out of it with brilliant passes and rim-rocking dunks, then disengaged once again. He struggled taking care of the ball and his defensive focus wasn’t there. It’s hard to criticize him because him picking spots is in the team’s best interest, but it’s what happened. He still finished with 22 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds, because he’s LeBron.
  • J.R. Smith looked as though he was going to break out of his slump early on, but finished the game 2-7. The Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Cavaliers was almost personified by Smith, who showed two-way play early on, only to trail off as the game progressed. Kevin Love also had a poor defensive game, based on what we’ve seen from him this season. He allowed deep defensive position and wasn’t as sharp as he’s been previously this year.
  • The lone bright spot may have been Kyrie Irving. Irving finished with 20 points on 12 shots and held Matthew Dellavedova to 1-5 shooting. Irving also took a charge from Antetokounmpo. Despite the good offensive performance, Irving could have taken better care of the ball, finishing with three assists and three turnovers.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks have an incredibly special player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. The man is larger than Anthony Davis and runs his team like a young LeBron James. The future of the Milwaukee Bucks are in good, freakishly sized hands.
  • Jabari Parker was also very impressive in tonight’s game, finishing with 18 points and four rebounds. Parker has had a strong season to this point and continued it tonight against the Cavs.
  • If you want another stat to show how poor the Cavs were defensively tonight, Michael Beasley finished with 17 points on 7-10 shooting. Marinate with that.

As previously mentioned, the Cavs play next Thursday against the Clippers. The Cavs will certainly once again be challenged in the interior; we will see how they respond to that challenge.