In the second of a three-game road trip, the Milwaukee Bucks head to Cleveland to face the top squad in the Eastern Conference looking to put Monday's ugly ending in Detroit behind them.
A late tip-in by Andre Drummond with 2.1 ticks left registered road loss No. 27 for the Bucks Monday in Detroit, 92-91. The Bucks led the Pistons by as many as 17 points before allowing Detroit to send Jason Kidd's club to a deflating loss. Jerryd Bayless had the opportunity to make it a three-point game with 9.6 seconds left, but the veteran missed two free-throw attempts, giving the Pistons another inbound down just one. That led to Drummond boxing out Giannis Antetokounmpo and being able to tap in a missed jumper in the final moments. Then again, it wasn't just the Bucks' mistakes that doomed them -- the NBA has since admitted a comedy of late officiating errors went in the Pistons' favor.
The loss overshadowed strong performances by Antetokounmpo (21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks with no turnovers) and former Pistons Khris Middleton (27 points) and Greg Monroe (18 points and 10 rebounds). However, outside of them, it was disappointment from just about everyone else: Jabari Parker only finished with five points after going 2-of-7 shooting, while the bench unit was responsible for a good chunk of Detroit's comeback. For better or worse, Kidd continues to experiment with all-bench lineups including the likes of Tyler Ennis, Damien Inglis, Miles Plumlee and John Henson, which has worked at times but frequently exposed the young Bucks' lack of experience and offensive talent.
Marcus Morris was on fire for the Pistons, and he finished the game with a team-high 21 points after going 8-of-9 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from deep. Drummond added 14 points and 16 rebounds.
LeBron James' social media presence is a constant source of distraction. Kevin Love's second season remains a huge disappointment. And Tyronn Lue's inability to spur the Cavs out of their doldrums is beginning to raise eyebrows.
Oh, and did we mention the Cavs are still 50-20, the #1 seed in the East and still the third most likely title team in the NBA? Welcome to the LeBron-induced microscope, which depending on the time of day could just as easily be a telescope or fun-house mirror. Make no mistake: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cavs are still very, very good. But they've yet to flash the sort of sustained excellence that will presumably be needed to take down either the Warriors or Spurs in a hypothetical finals matchup, and that's basically all that people focus on when LeBron James is on your roster.
While no one talks about James as the league's best player, the 31-year-old remains a mostly unstoppable force: 24.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and generally improved efficiency metrics compared to last season, which in almost any other year would be good enough for MVP consideration. Then again, the issues in Cleveland really don't have much to do with LeBron's numbers, but rather the general awkwardness of everything happening in his gravitational orbit. LeBron, Kyrie and Love have all struggled from the perimeter, with Kyrie and Love struggling to play up to their own high standards for most of the season. Despite that, Cleveland remains among the league's leaders in three point makes, attempts and percentage, which combined with their rebounding dominance (fourth in DREB%) makes them a tough matchup for a team like the Bucks.
Love is a question mark tonight due to illness, while former Buck Mo Williams is out with a knee injury.
On the Cavs: Fear the Sword
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|March 23, 2016|
|Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, OH|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Jerryd Bayless||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|Khris Middleton||SG||J.R. Smith|
|Jabari Parker||SF||LeBron James|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||PF||Kevin Love|
|Greg Monroe||C||Timofey Mozgov|
|2015/16 Advanced Stats|
|94.1 (24th)||Pace||93.1 (28th)|
|104.5 (23rd)||ORtg||110.7 (3rd)|
|108.2 (21st)||DRtg||104.2 (7th)|