Cavs buck up in defeat

All not so bad, as far as losses go, for a young team on second night of back-to-back, Sam Amico writes.

Random stuff from the Cavaliers’ 105-102 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday night:

• Losses like this you can handle. It was a road game on the second night of a back-to-back for a young team. And if it wasn’t for some awful play from the reserves in the second quarter … well, let’s not even talk about it.

• I’m stating the obvious here, but through three games, the bench has been atrocious. C.J. Miles is particularly out of sorts. Let’s hope this isn’t as good as he gets. Hopefully, he just needs some time to adjust to his new surroundings. Miles finished 0-for-6 shooting for 0 points, with four fouls and three turnovers. Yuck, yuck and double yuck.

Cavs coach Byron Scott worked in the bench slowly in the second half, strategically putting in Daniel Gibson, Tyler Zeller and Donald Sloan one at a time (as opposed to the major wave of the first half). Things went much better, and as Scott has hinted repeatedly, everyone is still trying to figure things out. That includes the coaching staff, and understandably so.

• Mostly, as analyst Austin Carr said during the broadcast on FOX Sports Ohio, the Cavs “showed me a lot of character.” They had every reason to fold, especially with Bucks reserve Mike Dunleavy doing his best Reggie Miller imitation, knocking down six of his seven three-point attempts and shooting 10-for-12 overall for 29 points. But the Cavs kept fighting and took it to the final buzzer (plus a few seconds).

• Bucks guard Brandon Jennings ended it with a fadeaway three at the top of the key with .07 seconds left. Scott said the clock started late, and he’s right. After further review, the clock didn’t start until more than a second after Jennings caught the ball off the inbounds pass.

• Jennings was given time to turn and release, and beat the buzzer. Nonetheless, it was a great shot to end a classic game. But as Scott said, the NBA “needs to do something about” the clock starting late -- particularly in arenas where the home team has the ball and the score is tied.

Kyrie Irving finished with a game-high 27 points (and team-high 7 assists). He said his father once told him that “pressure makes diamonds.” Well, Kyrie may be in line for some new jewelry, because he scored the Cavs’ final 13 points, and not a single one of them was easy.

• This one also provided further evidence that the Cavs aren’t a bad team. They just match up horribly with the Bulls, who rocked the Cavs at The Q on Friday. Anderson Varejao has been awesome in two of the Cavs’ first three -- but is never the same against the Bulls’ Joakim Noah, a mirror image who is slightly more skilled and just as energetic.

• Varejao finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds Saturday. Alonzo Gee was also (mostly) fantastic, proving that good defense really does lead to offense. Gee finished with 18 points, six assists and two steals.

• Scott has told Gee that if it doesn’t happen in three dribbles, “it’s probably not going to happen.” This is something Gee is still applying to his game. He needs to remember it, though, because he still forces a little too much. It also wouldn’t hurt for him to learn to dribble with his head up, especially in traffic.

• As for rookie Dion Waiters, I can’t imagine the Cavs without him. Honest. He still makes some rookie mistakes (and will for some time), but he is constantly trying to create and make things happen. And there may be a better-passing NBA shooting guard, but I just can’t think of one off the top of my head. Rookie or veteran.

• Waiters tallied 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Jennings, a borderline All-Star, had 13 on 5-for-13 shooting (and 13 assists).

• As for the bench guys, Sloan played much better in the second half, hitting a couple of big shots on his way to eight points. Zeller is still way too tentative, but that’s the way it usually goes for rookies. Still, seven boards aren’t too shabby for a rookie who played 21 minutes.

• The Cavs were 18-for-29 on free throws. That includes an 0-for-5 showing from the bench. Why are Zeller and Gibson each going 0-for-2? They’re better than that. But they alone can’t be blamed. Bottom line: Free throws are among the “little things” the Cavs always talk about needing to do well as a young team. No excuse.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO

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