The Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 119-111 on Saturday night, but it wasn’t without some impressive performances. Donovan Mitchell returned from a multi-game absence to score a team-high 34 points on 14-23 shooting (including 2-10 from three) to go with nine assists and three rebounds. Jarrett Allen added 30 points and 12 rebounds to help keep the Cavs in it. Max Strus (with 12 ponts) and Craig Porter Jr. (with 14 points) were the only other Cavs in double figures.
Well... that happened
Two things cost the Cavs this game more than anything else: three-point shooting and a poor third quarter.
As a team, the Cavs finished 6-43 from three, good for a whopping 14% from three. (The Bucks, by comparison were 12-29 from three, 41.4% with Malik Beasley making five threes. No Cavalier made more than two.) The 18-point advantage from three was costly.
The third quarter also took Cleveland entirely out of the game. After heading into halftime with a lead, the Cavs were outscored 40-21 in the third. Milwaukee shot 65.2% from the field and 37.5% from three. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard had 14 apiece in the quarter.
Mitchell, to his credit, had 11 for Cleveland on 5-7 shooting. Allen added 8 points on 4-5 shooting. But that just wasn’t enough. The Cavs did win the fourth quarter and made a late push, but that wasn’t enough either.
Getting Mitchell back is bigger than anything else the Cavs did in this game. There’s still more players to get back — looking at you, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell — but Mitchell being back is a big, big deal. He is the best player on the team and provide more structure and firepower to the offense.
The loss, though, still stings. It’s one of four games the Cavs will have vs. the Bucks within the next month. (The next is in Cleveland on Jan. 17. the next two are a two game in three day series in Milwaukee on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26.) With the caveat that the Cavs aren’t fully healthy, how they perform over these four games vs. one of the league’s best teams will say something about where the Cavs fall in the league’s hierarchy.
Up next: The Cavs are done for 2023 and next play on Monday, Jan. 1 in Toronto against the Raptors. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.