MILWAUKEE: The controversial finish, when the clock appeared to start late on Brandon Jennings' game winner at the buzzer, masked the real problem for the Cavs: what to do with their bench.
The Luke Walton experiment clearly isn't working. Byron Scott took the blame for it Friday night, saying it wasn't fair to put him up against Chicago's Taj Gibson. Walton played less than five minutes in the first half and never returned.
It happened again Saturday when Walton played seven fairly ineffective minutes in the first half and never returned. I understand why Scott likes his veteran leadership with the second unit. Walton's basketball IQ is incredibly high, which is why he has a future waiting for him as a basketball coach some day.
But he's not really helping the Cavs, who desperately need to find some bench scoring -- and quickly. This road trip is about to get more challenging and the Cavs have yet to prove they have the firepower to withstand it.
C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller and Daniel Gibson, three of the main reserves expected to play going forward, were a combined 3 of 17 on Saturday. For the fourth consecutive season, Miles is starting off in a shooting funk. He struggled at the start of the year in each of his final three years in Utah, but never like this.
Miles went scoreless Saturday for the first time since Jan. 25, 2010 and he's shooting just 18 percent (4 of 22) through the first three games. Miles has no explanation for the shooting woes and makes no excuses, although Scott seems more irritated by his defensive lapses than anything that is (or isn't) happening on offense.
Miles appears to sometimes let his offensive problems carry over to the defensive side, which is concerning because he was never a really good on-ball defender in the first place.
Scott fired the shot over the bow prior to Saturday's game, warning that he wouldn't be very patient with guys who aren't performing. He proved it by benching Walton for the second consecutive night. This time, it might be permanent.
Miles has a little more rope, but not much if he doesn't start at least defending. The Clippers are up next. The Cavs' bench needs to score more than 15 points Monday or else this trip could unravel quickly.
Cavs: Kyrie Irving 27 points, 7 assists (scored Cavs' final 13 points); Anderson Varejao 20 points, 17 rebounds; Alonzo Gee 18 points, 6 assists. Bucks: Mike Dunleavy 29 points, 12 rebounds; Monta Ellis 23 points, Brandon Jennings 13 points.
Jennings missed his first four 3-point attempts. The only one he made was the game's final shot, and it's highly debatable whether or not it should have even counted.
The Cavs' starters built a 12-point lead in the first quarter. The lead was five when Kyrie Irving (the final remaining starter) left the game with 2:11 remaining. Within 5 1/2 minutes, the Bucks had a 10-point lead before Scott could get the starters back in the game.
"I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to say anything about the clock starting late. ... Looking at it again in the locker room, the shot shouldn’t have counted." -- coach Byron Scott, on Brandon Jennings' game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer
The Cavaliers (1-2) travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers (2-1) on Monday.