The Cavs could have, and perhaps should have, won this game tonight. The Bucks have absolutely no interior defense, but the Cavaliers missed 19 shots from inside 3 feet. Ten of those misses came in the first quarter, when the Cavs fell behind 29-14 and coach Byron Scott rightfully said “we couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
When Kyrie Irving isn’t on the floor, it forces the Cavaliers to play a completely different brand of offense. Where Scott always wants the rookie pushing and pushing the tempo faster and faster in transition, without him, the Cavs are forced to slow the game down and rely on their half-court offense.
The only problem with that is their half-court offense isn’t particularly good, except for tonight when facing a horrendous defensive team. Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson are handling the majority of the point guard duties, which is stunning in and of itself. Sloan has been with the team for a couple of weeks, but Hudson has practiced with the Cavs just one time.
The Cavs’ offense isn’t very complicated to start, now they’ve watered it down even more so the new guys can grasp a few concepts, since the shortened season leaves little practice time. Yet with all of that working against them, the Cavs still got great looks tonight out of their half-court offense, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
But again, the Bucks are woeful defensively. Against a sound defensive team like the Spurs, the Cavs couldn’t do much of anything right. That’s why Scott reiterated to his players tonight not to backslide, not to let this little piece of momentum stall Friday night in Toronto.
If the Cavs converted even a quarter of those blown layups tonight, this game at least goes to overtime. And that’s quite an accomplishment given how badly the Bucks embarrassed the Cavs at home last week.
The decision on whether or not to bring Irving and Anderson Varejao back this season is, at least to me, weaved together. Scott said he was interested to see how Varejao and Tristan Thompson play together, but that seems pretty worthless unless Irving is there running the offense.
Does playing Thompson and Varejao together really show you anything if Sloan or Hudson are running the point? Similarly, Irving has proven everything he needs to prove this season. Why rush him back and risk injuring the shoulder again when the season is lost? Particularly since Irving revealed that he separated that same shoulder in high school?
Irving has played 1,444 minutes this season, nearly four times as many as he did during his one injury-shortened season in college. Shut him down and let him rest, then bring him back for a couple of games in the summer league.