Bucks-Cavaliers Preview

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have Kyrie Irving in their latest

game, but backup Ramon Sessions’ performance in his absence showed

the team has more than one capable floor leader.

They hope Sessions can turn in similar efforts in the next two

games, starting Friday night.

A concussion will sideline Irving for two more contests, so the

Cavs could use another big game out of Sessions when they face the

Milwaukee Bucks and struggling Brandon Jennings, who has more

trouble at Quicken Loans Arena that any opposing venue.

Irving has quickly become the Cavaliers’ leader, averaging 18.0

points to lead all rookies while ranking second with 5.1 assists

per game and 49.2 percent shooting.

His emergence has meant fewer minutes for Sessions, who averaged

15.8 points over the second half of the 2010-11 season but came

into Wednesday’s visit from the Los Angeles Clippers scoring 9.0

per game and shooting 33.5 percent.

Pressed into a starting role when the team found out Irving

would sit with a concussion sustained Tuesday, Sessions responded

with season highs of 24 points and 13 assists, outplaying Chris

Paul and leading the Cavaliers (10-14) to a 99-92 victory.

“It’s not my first rodeo,” said Sessions, who spent his first

two seasons in Milwaukee. “I was ready to go when they called my

name.”

That’s good for the Cavs as they take a now-required cautious

approach with Irving, who was evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic on

Thursday. The team is following the NBA’s new guidelines on

concussions, which requires a player to complete a series of steps

to be cleared for competition.

”He’s getting better but we are going through NBA protocol,”

coach Byron Scott said. “He’ll be out tonight and tomorrow and

we’ll go from there. He’s making improvement but we’re not going to

risk putting him out there until the doctors say he’s fine.”

Having Irving on the court would have created a matchup of two

of the league’s top young point guards, but Jennings – Milwaukee’s

leading scorer – hasn’t done much lately to live up to that

reputation.

After averaging 23.7 points and 5.9 assists as the Bucks (11-14)

won six of 10 from Jan. 17-Feb. 3, he has averaged 7.3 points and

shot 30.8 percent (8 for 26) over the past three games.

He shot 3 of 12 in Toronto on Wednesday, but Carlos Delfino

stepped up with a season-high 25 points to lift Milwaukee to a

105-99 win. It was the Bucks’ fourth win in six road games after

starting 0-8.

“We haven’t been the best on the road this year,’ said former

Cavalier Drew Gooden, who had his third straight 20-point game.

“But we’re steadily trying to creep up and get back to the .500

mark and we need road wins to do that.”

Milwaukee won three of four in last season’s series, including

just its second victory in 16 road games against the Cavaliers.

Jennings sat out that 102-88 win Jan. 21 with a broken foot, but

he probably didn’t miss taking the floor in Cleveland. He’s lost

all three games he has played at Quicken Loans Arena, averaging 8.7

points and shooting 20.0 percent (8 for 40) – easily his worst mark

in any venue.

While Irving has gotten much of the credit for the Cavaliers’

early competitiveness, Anderson Varejao’s contributions have been

perhaps just as critical. Second in the East with 11.8 rebounds per

game, Varejao has averaged 15.0 points and 14.8 boards over his

last five games.

That could spell trouble for the Bucks, who have been

outrebounded by 4.9 per game since Andrew Bogut went down. The only

game Varejao played during last season’s series was the Cavaliers’

lone victory.

Cleveland is 8-0 at home against Milwaukee with Varejao in the

lineup.