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Cavaliers Drop 15th Straight Game in 102-88 Loss to Milwaukee

For a majority of the first half, it looked like the struggling and oft-injured Cavs would be able to hang with a Milwaukee team playing without their starting backcourt. But as we've seen so many times in the last month, the Cavs have to play near perfect basketball for nearly an entire game just to have a chance to win - and two big lulls in the second and fourth quarters doomed them tonight.

The Bucks used a 12-0spurt in 1:41 at the end of the first half and a 13-4 run to open the fourth quarter to give the Cavaliers a double-digit deficit and send them to their 15th consecutive loss with a 102-88 victory. Despite playing without their two starting guards (Brandon Jennings - foot surgery, John Salmons - hip injury), Milwaukee got 11 assists from Keyon Dooling and scored 25 points off Cleveland turnovers and were never really threatened in the second half.

Andrew Bogut hit his final eight shots, going 11-of-14 for the game, en route to 23 points. He also had 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. The Cavs tried to guard him with 6'9" J.J. Hickson, but Bogut forced 4 fouls within his first 10 minutes of action on the floor.

Corey Maggette added 20 points (8-of-9 FTs) while Dooling had 12 and the aforementioned 11 assists. Carlos Delfino, playing in his first game in over 2 months, chipped in with 9 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.

Cleveland was led in scoring by Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions with 22 apiece. Daniel Gibson had 15 points and eight assists off the bench but the team made just 26 of 68 shots (38.2%) and scored over a third of their points (32) at the foul line.

Some thoughts as the Cavs get ready for 3 road games in 4 days...

  • Cleveland had given up 100 or more points in 11 consecutive games and 12 times total in the 14-game skid. It seemed like tonight was as good of an opportunity they would get to hold a team down defensively - Milwaukee was last in the league in scoring (91.2 ppg), field goals made (33.4) and team shooting (42.1%). But once again tonight, they couldn't sustain any momentum on that end. The Bucks shot 50.6% and cracked 100 points for the first time in 2 weeks.

 

  • At times, the Cavs did show some signs of improvement defensively. After Hickson headed to the bench for committing his 2nd and 3rd fouls, they started double-teaming Bogut on the block. On back-to-back possessions they brought a guard down, forced a kick-out pass, and each player was in perfect help position as Milwaukee swung the ball to the opposite side and took a couple of wild shots off the dribble. They closed out relatively well on 3-point shooters too, contesting outside shots for the most part - the Bucks went just 4-of-16 from outside the arc.

 

  • Unfortunatelythe small steps of progression showed on defense were combated by poor decisions on offense,a trend that is starting to become more frequent. No more than a month ago the Cavs averaged the fewest amount of turnovers in the league;now they are 13th with 13.4 per game. And in the past four games, they've committed 68 (17 per game). The Cavs have a small enough margin of error because of injuries and an overall lack of talent on both ends of the floor - being careless with the ball and making bad decisions that lead to easy buckets for the opposition isn't exactly the best way to improve your chances to win.

 

  • The guards (Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Manny Harris) are actually pretty good at getting into the paint and attacking off the dribble. The problem is, they still don't have a good idea of when to drive. Instead of picking their spots, too often they put their heads down and force things that just aren't there. They have to develop more of an understanding of how to drive with a purpose - not just looking to score but to set up an outside jumper, a switch that leads to a mismatch or to draw a foul. In particular this has been a problem for Sessions, who can't seem to find the right balance of dribbling to score and distribute.

 

  • Speaking of offensive balance... early in the season the Cavs had trouble getting consistent scoring from either the first or second unit. When the bench was scoring over 40 points, typically 2 or 3 starters had single-digit games. When Scott started using his top-five as starters, no one on the bench could get anything going. Tonight, with J.J. Hickson in foul trouble, the ball was in the hands of 3 players for a majority of the game: Sessions, Gibson and Antawn Jamison. They took over 60% of the shots tonight but hit a combined 34.8% of those attempts. As a result, Harris, Hickson and Alonzo Gee had a combined 7 FGA and 4 points. Byron Scott said during tonight's game (while he was miked up) that the team needs 5 or 6 guys playing at a high level to win - getting that little production from 3 starters makes his wish virtually unattainable.

 

  • This was the first game where J.J. Hickson was seriously undermanned starting at center. Starting against Phoenix, Utah and Denver as center, he never really had to face a pure back-to-the-basket player with a considerable size advantage. He actually did a fairly nice job against Al Jefferson in the Utah game last week. But tonight, it was obvious from the beginning he was going to have his hands full with Bogut. He defended him every way possible in the opening minutes - trying to deny, fronting the post, allowing Bogut to catch it inside and wait for the double-team, showing at the top of the key in pick-and-rolls and diving to recover, etc. But Bogut's strength and length were just too much for him to handle. He committed his 4th foul at the beginning of the 3rd after playing less than 10 minutes in the 1st half. Because of that, he wound up playing just 18 foul-plagued minutes and finished with 2 points, 5 rebounds and zero impact.

 

  • Tonight was game 1 of a 4-in-5-day stretch for the Cavs. The next 3 games are on the road: Chicago (tomorrow), New Jersey (Monday), Boston (Tuesday). It won't get any easier tomorrow since the Bulls are 19-4 at home and will likely get the services of Carlos Boozer back (missed 3 games with an ankle injury). The Nets could be a winnable game (they already won atNew Jersey in early November) but they've reeled off 2 straight home wins (including one over Utah) and could be playing with some cohesiveness now that they've publicly backed out of any Carmelo Anthony trade. The Celtics...that's going to be a brutal game. If the Cavs don't win any of these games, they'll be looking at an 18-game losing streak heading home for next Friday's game against Denver (19 straight losses is the franchise record). Then they get to go back on the road for back-to-back games at Orlando and Miami.

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