Dribbles: Cavs’ insistence on chucking threes proves costly in loss to Bucks

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 119-111 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.Jarrett Allen

1. When you finish 6-of-43 on 3-pointers, you won’t beat too many people. Certainly not the mighty Bucks. And maybe not the Pistons, Wizards, or Hornets, either.

2. Yet fire away the Cavs did. This despite the fact everything seemed to be working inside, with Jarrett Allen hitting his first nine shots and Cleveland building a 50-35 lead. Allen had 18 points and eight rebounds by halftime.

3. Do analytics still say that threes are better than twos when you miss all your threes and make all your twos? Isn’t two better than, say, zero?

4. Anyway, I’m not trying to question everything here. I’m just wondering why the Cavs stopped giving the ball to Allen and started jacking up shots instead. Or at least continued to jack up threes when they clearly weren’t falling.

5. That said, the Cavs had a chance with about a minute to go. If this had been just about any other opponent, they may have won despite all the misses. But these were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and the Bucks. There’s very little margin for error.

6. Donovan Mitchell returned after a four-game absence and erupted for 34 points and nine assists. Obviously, fans will question how the Cavs won their previous two road games without Mitchell and then immediately lost this one. I’d find it hard to believe that the Cavs are worse with Mitchell, though.

7. Allen finished with 30 points on a sizzling 15-of-17 shooting and 12 rebounds. But other than fantastic rookie Craig Porter Jr. (14 points in 15 minutes), no one else could’ve thrown a pebble in a garbage can.

8. Max Strus (12 points) was 5-of-18 shooting and 2-of-11 on threes. Mitchell was 2-of-10 on threes; Caris LeVert was 0-of-6 and 3-of-14 shooting overall.

9. Still, again, it’s hard to get too worked up about losing a late December game to the Bucks when you didn’t exactly have your best night. 

10. Milwaukee outscored the Cavs by a 40-21 count in the third quarter, and that really was the difference. Eventually, lousy shooting will catch up with you. The Cavs didn’t really do anything wrong. They’re usually pretty reliable from beyond the arc. But sometimes, when things aren’t working, you have to try to find another way.

11. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters: “I thought our guys did what was necessary. Obviously, we struggled from behind the 3-point line, which had a huge impact. But I thought our guys continued to try to play the right way and create for one another.”

12. Hard to argue with that. The Cavs (18-14) truly have been scrapping and a Bickerstaff said, “trying to play the right way,” without the injured Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. They just beat Chicago and Dallas on the road without those two and Mitchell. You’re not gonna win ’em all.

13. Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds, while Lillard really came alive after halftime to finish with 31. Forever-underrated forward Khris Middleton added 13 points and a game-high 11 assists. When healthy, the Bucks (24-8) look like a team that undoubtedly did the right thing by trading for Lillard.

14. As for the Cavs, there’s a road game against the Raptors on New Year’s Day, followed by six straight at home from Jan. 3-17. The first two come against the lowly Wizards. So as I’ve written before, they just need to stay afloat until Garland and Mobley get back. I sense that they’ll be able to do just that.

15. Happy New Year and thanks as always for following along. You’re the very reason I get to type up all this stuff and call it my career.

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