Kyrie Irving went on his usual demigod-like scoring burst and CJ Miles hit a corner three with one minute left to give the Cavs a 104-103 lead. It looked like yet another Bucks game was shaping up for a gut-twisting ending. This time, though, they managed to not shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers or missed free throws, and hung on to win 109-104.
Gary Neal. I said in the last recap that I would eat my words if Gary Neal had a successful night so....bon appetit. Neal shot 8-15 from the floor and 4-5 from the three to finish the night with 23 points to go with four assists and only one turnover. He was aggressive from the get go and knocked down a wide variety of shots. There was little reason to worry with the ball in Neal's hands tonight, as the majority of his shots were well within the offense and not just green light abuse.
O.J. Mayo. Mayo was ready to fire away from the get-go, dropping 11 points in the first quarter. The man brought in to help replace the points left by Jennings and Ellis did exactly that tonight, totaling a team-high 28 on 9-19 shooting and 6-7 threes. And perhaps his biggest contribution was some good last-minute defense on Kyrie Irving to go with 4-4 from the free throw line late when it genuinely felt like the Cavs were going to steal the game out of the Bucks' hands.
Mayo and Neal won't shoot lights out like this in most games, but it was nice to see them getting points within a somewhat legitimate scheme, rather than clogging up the flow of the offense with an untimely isolation test followed by a contested shot. Whenever the Bucks get their point guard depth back up to regulation, both of these shooters should begin to thrive a little bit more consistently.
Zaza Pachulia. Zaza continues to be his steady, productive self, filling in for the absent Larry Sanders with a triple-double-threatening 14 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. He was also a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line--his second such performance in four games--continuing his perfect season from the charity stripe 21-21. Even if he is preventing a stealth tank, he's been the Bucks' most consistent contributor. And he raps, so your argument is invalid.
Honorable mention: Nate Wolters had nine points, eight rebounds, and six assists tonight. Wolters has 26 assists on the young season and only four turnovers. For a guy that wasn't supposed to be playing this much, you can't help but love that stat.
92.3. That's the Bucks' free throw percentage tonight. Going 24-26 is a lot better than shooting 56.6 percent (10/18) like they did against the Raptors, I'd say. I'm no numbers guy, though.
56.5. The Bucks made 13 of their 23 (56.5%) three-point attempts tonight, which kept them ahead for most of the night. With everyone contributing on offense, the defense was forced to be honest, opening up passing lanes and opportunities for quality ball movement, which led to plenty of open shots around the perimeter. Open shots are a good thing, maybe the best of things for this team.
41-39. The Bucks out-rebounded the Cavaliers by just two, but hey, we'll take it. Also, the Cavs' 12 offensive rebounds were only translated into nine second-chance points. The Bucks didn't exactly control the glass, but they were much more effective in that area tonight after struggling on the boards in their first three games. All improvements have to start somewhere, and tonight was an encouraging effort against a team with plenty of guys capable of crashing the offensive boards.
He's back! Ekpe Udoh saw his first minutes of the season, returning from knee surgery that had shelved him for the past month. He didn't play much, but threw down a dunk late in the first quarter and was effective defensively, highlighted by a monster block on Andrew Bynum.
So, you're saying there's a chance! We all know John Henson loves his lefty hook. In the fourth quarter, however, Henson received the ball on the right block and was forced to turn his left shoulder by Tristan Thompson. Popular thought would be to close your eyes and call your loved ones and such, but Henson instead spun to the baseline and flipped in a decent-looking righty hook. One day he'll be able to consistently go to both hands with that shot, and that will be a great, great day.
Suit up! Brandon Knight was in his warmups the entire night, which means the Bucks may actually have some point guard depth soon! Imagine a world with that!
Poppin' bottles. Yeah, that Larry Sanders situation doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.
Injury bug continues to bite. Ersan Ilyasova was a late scratch due to that bothersome sore right ankle. He's not expected to miss significant time, but it sure would be nice for the Bucks to be able to put out consistent lineups and rotations eventually to see what this roster is capable of, wouldn't it?
Heart attack, much? There wasn't a whole lot to hate with the offensive performance, but those common fears and anxieties sprung up again when the Cavs made their late run after Wolters went to the bench. Luckily, the Bucks eventually got Wolters back in the game and reclaimed the lead for good on Caron Butler's late tip-in, but it'd be nice to see them put their foot down and finish off an opponent. Still, the season is young and they did win, so I'll be quiet.
On a victory with a shorthanded roster:
"We were shorthanded with no Larry Sanders, no Ersan [lyasova], Luke Ridnour, and Brandon Knight. For these guys to come out ad play like they did, I am very proud to coach this group. We've had to overcome a lot of adversity since the beginning of training camp, dealing with injuries and guys being out. We beat a very good basketball team tonight in Cleveland."
The Bucks' next game is Saturday night, when MONTA ELLIS and the Mavericks visit Milwaukee.