MILWAUKEE: As the confetti and streamers fell around them, the Cavaliers stood by their bench stunned Saturday night, unwilling to leave the court until they knew for sure it was over.
Turns out, they had reason to be skeptical. The shot that beat them never should have counted.
Brandon Jennings’ 3-pointer at the buzzer capped a wild finish with a crushing 105-102 loss to the Bucks. Officials reviewed the play to make sure he got the shot off in time, which he did – because the clock didn’t start on time. Jennings caught the ball with 0.7 seconds left on the clock, brought the ball below his waist, left his feet and was at the top of his release point before the clock ever started.
The home team provides the clock operator, but an official on the court also controls the clock with a remote attached to his waist.
“I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to say anything about the clock starting late,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “They have to figure out a way to do something about that.”
Scott was referring to the tenths on both the shot clock and game clock.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t count or you take it out again,” Scott said. “Looking at it again in the locker room, the shot shouldn’t have counted.”
Told he may have crossed the line and might receive a fine from the league for criticizing officials, Scott responded “then too damn bad.”
Prior to Jennings’ controversial shot, Kyrie Irving tied the game at 102 on a left-handed driving layup with 0.7 seconds left. The Cavs took possession with nine seconds left and Irving, like he did so many times last season, sliced down the lane and appeared to hit the shot to send the game to overtime.
Irving had 27 points, including the final 13 for the Cavs in the fourth quarter, and seven assists. Anderson Varejao had another monster night with 20 points and 17 rebounds and Alonzo Gee had 18 points.
Jennings had 13 points for the Bucks, Monta Ellis had 23 and Mike Dunleavy had 29 off the bench.
The bench continues to be a problem for the Cavs. The reserves managed just 15 points and blew a big lead in the first quarter, turning a six-point Cavs advantage into a 10-point deficit.
As a result, Scott said he’ll shorten his bench beginning with Monday’s game at Los Angeles against the Clippers. He’ll only go with three or at the most four reserves for now.
The Cavs were competitive throughout, unlike Friday’s bludgeoning at the hands of the Bulls, but ultimately it mattered little. The Cavs have lost eight consecutive games to the Bucks, including six in a row in Bradley Center.