MILWAUKEE: With a little defense, some timely shots and a much-needed victory, the Cavs managed to kill three losing streaks in one night.
Dion Waiters had 18 points, Kyrie Irving had 15 points and Tristan Thompson had his third consecutive double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Cavaliers withstood the absence of Anderson Varejao to hammer the Milwaukee Bucks 94-82 on Saturday. The win snapped their losing streak at six, their losing streak against the Bucks at nine and their dreaded 17-game losing streak against Central Division opponents. The 12-point victory is also their widest of the season, surpassing the 10-point win over the Washington Wizards on opening night.
After struggling with third quarters most of the season, the Cavs extended a 46-37 halftime lead into a 20-point bulge in the third quarter. The Bucks cut it to 71-63 entering the fourth, but Thompson had a basket to open the fourth and C.J. Miles followed with a layup and 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 78-64. The Cavs weren’t threatened again.
Varejao did not make the trip. The team elected to leave him in Cleveland for more treatment on his bruised right knee in the hopes he’ll be available for Wednesday’s game at the Wizards, when the Cavs will attempt to win consecutive games for the first time since March.
Monta Ellis had a season-high 37 points for the Bucks, but the Cavs’ frontcourt outscored their bigs 35-13 and the Bucks shot just 39 percent. Some of that was good defense by the Cavs and some of it was just terrible shooting by the Bucks, who beat the Celtics at the Garden on Friday.
Miles had 16 points off the bench and Tyler Zeller had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds despite shooting just 4-of-14.
Given the outcome, the Cavs may continue to alter their travel schedule. Inclement weather forced them to remain in Cleveland on Friday, delaying their arrival into Milwaukee until noon on Saturday. The players hung out at the hotel for a few hours, traveled to the arena and then were scheduled to fly back home immediately after the game.
Coach Byron Scott sure knows how to be a Grinch. Scott will hold practices on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but looking at the Cavs’ schedule the last month, it’s easy to see why.
So many sets of back-to-back games over the last three weeks reduced the Cavs to three practice days since Dec. 7. That’s why he’s taking full advantage of the coming week, which offers three days to practice between Monday and Thursday. He’s using every one of them, even if it conflicts with the holidays.
“We need it. Our young guys need repetition,” Scott said. “We need to be on the practice court where we can stop things and show them things like when they’re in the wrong spot. The last three weeks have been crazy where you only get one day to practice and you really have to monitor that day because you have games three out of the next four days. When you’re as young as we are and you need a lot of work on little, detailed things, it hurts you.”
Scott said the biggest detriment to the lack of practice time is the cohesiveness, particularly between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Since both of them have been injured, their time developing chemistry together has been limited.
“They’re development of getting to know each other and being the type of backcourt we know they can be I think is being hampered because of their absence of playing together and just being on the floor practicing together,” Scott said. “We have a lot of little things we need to get straight and practice really can take care of a lot of that. Since we haven’t had a whole lot of time to practice, a lot of those things have fallen by the wayside and we need to get them back.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.