Dribbles: No Reason to Doubt Cavs After They Have One of Those Halves, Fall to Bucks

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 117-102 road loss to the Bucks on Friday. …

1. It’s the NBA. You’re going to have nights like this.Darius Garland

2. You’re going to have terrible second halves, as the Cavs undoubtedly did in this one. You’re going to lose after building a double-digit lead — as the Cavs also did.

3. Big deal? Hardly. 

4. For more perspective, think about this — we’re going to be doing this until April. The weather will be warmer by the time the regular season ends (we hope). The Cleveland Guardians will have already started the baseball season. Summer will be right around the bend.

5. Translation: Yeah, there is an incredibly long way to go. The regular season is 82 games. The Cavs (12-7) have played 19. And man, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are good. As in, a true blue championship contender. Their program has been together for a while. They won a title. The Cavs are still a work in progress.

6. So as poorly as the Cavs played in the final two quarters … well, just know this much: It’s the NBA, and it’s going to happen again. The Cavs will lose another game. They will even suffer what is considered a “blowout.” There will be more nights where they have a bad stretch, lose games they should win, and win some games they should not.

7. All that matters is that the Cavs stay near the top of the Central Division and Eastern Conference. All that matters is that they play their best basketball when it matters most — toward the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.

8. Right now, they aren’t on the Bucks’ level. Nor should they be. Donovan Mitchell (29 points) has been with the team for a month. Darius Garland (20) is still sporting an eye that doesn’t look totally right. Jarrett Allen just can’t seem to stay off the trainer’s table — playing a mere 12 minutes before exiting with a hip injury.

9. These aren’t excuses. These aren’t criticisms. They’re just reality, and they’re the norm in a long, long NBA season.

10. As for the actual game, the Cavs hadn’t lost since their last visit to Milwaukee on Nov. 16. So maybe all they really need to do is avoid the Bucks. That’s a joke — sort of. (For the record, they play twice more, Dec. 21 and Jan. 21, both times in Cleveland.)

11. Yes, the Cavs held a 63-52 advantage at halftime. But championship teams are second-half teams, and clearly, the Bucks know what they are doing. They came out of the locker room and turned up the defensive intensity. Like, way, way up.

12. Suddenly, the Cavs were lost. They were taken totally out of their offense. Every pass and shot attempt became a major challenge. It resulted in a 23-2 run for the Bucks. Game. … Set. … On to the next one for the Cavs.

13. Mitchell put it perfectly in his postgame interview with Bally Sports Cleveland. “They turned it up defensively,” he said. “I told the guys, at the end of the day, it feels bad, it looks nasty … but they turned it up to a level we haven’t seen, we haven’t experienced. That’s playoff basketball.”

14. And here’s the good news: This ain’t the playoffs. Instead, it was just another lesson in the regular season. More are sure to come.

15. More Mitchell: “It sucks. It didn’t look great. But (we need to) keep that understanding that this is a lesson and we just gotta be better.”

16. Hardly sounds like a man who is overly worried, and again, nor should he be.

17. Dean Wade earned the start after Lamar Stevens fell ill, and Wade finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. Isaac Okoro came off the bench to score 13. Evan Mobley struggled mightily, scoring eight points and shooting just 2-of-12 from the field.

18. The Cavs were also again without Kevin Love (thumb) and Caris LeVert (ankle). Both appear to be day-to-day. We will of course offer updates on Allen on Hoops Wire as they become available.

19. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks (13-5) with 38 points and nine boards. The future of the NBA is very clearly in good hands as long as this guy’s around. Yeesh.

20. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff with the reasonable final word: “These games are about experience for us. All these teams that are elite teams, and all these players that are elite players, they had to learn lessons. And we’re going through that now. But again, we’re a good basketball team. There’s no doubt about it.”

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  1. Thanks! It makes me feel better reading this article. I can’t watch the games where I live and was concerned with Allen’s situation. Thanks for the update.

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