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 in 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 of a second 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 might 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 at the buzzer, Kyrie Irving tied the score at 102 on a left-handed driving layup with 0.7 of a second left.
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 players continue 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 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 four reserves for the time being.
The Cavs were competitive throughout, unlike Friday’s bludgeoning at the hands of the Bulls. But it mattered little. The Cavs have lost eight consecutive games to the Bucks, including six in a row in Bradley Center.
Saturday’s game marked Jon Leuer’s return to Milwaukee, where he spent his rookie season before the Bucks traded him to Houston over the summer. The Rockets subsequently released him, and the Cavs claimed him off waivers.
Leuer averaged 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds last season as a rookie and even made 12 starts, but the Bucks had to trade him in order to obtain center Samuel Dalembert. Leuer admitted Saturday the trade over the summer caught him by surprise.
“As a young player, you never expect to get traded,” he said. “It’s just the nature of the business thing.”
Walton returns to rotation
Luke Walton returned to the Cavs’ rotation Saturday after playing less than five minutes in Friday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. Scott pulled Walton on Friday because it was a bad matchup against long, athletic Bulls forward Taj Gibson.
“I take full responsibility for that,” Scott said. “I put him in a bad situation against a guy who’s just so athletic, so long.”
Paul Pressey, Scott’s lead assistant, played previously in Milwaukee. There is a picture inside a club lounge in the Bradley Center of Pressey going up for a basket while Scott looks on.
The two didn’t have much of a relationship during their playing days, but really met through Doc Rivers. Pressey used to be an assistant for Rivers.
“I heard around the league what a good coach he was and what a terrific person he was,” said Scott, who brought Pressey to New Orleans for an interview. “Most of the coaches I’ve hired, it’s about a 15-minute sitdown and I can tell right then if I want him or not. Right away I knew. This guy is going to be on my staff until he decides he doesn’t want to coach basketball anymore. We’ve been together ever since.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.