Cavaliers unable to overcome long range shooting trouble and officials in 119-111 loss to the Bucks   
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - After an inspiring win on Wednesday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers (18-13, 9-7 home) overcame a 20 point deficit in Dallas to defeat the Mavericks 113-110 the Cavs returned to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Friday night to host the Milwaukee Bucks (23-8, 7-6 road).

The Cavs remain a walking M.A.S.H. unit with 52% of their payroll and 42% of the roster injured and not active for Wednesday game they continue to surprise and are 5-1 since the injuries and surgeries to Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.

Heading into the game the Bucks held the all-time series lead with the Cavs 130-99. The Cavs however did lead the series with the Bucks in Cleveland (Cleveland Arena, Richfield Coliseum and RMFH) 62-53. On Friday night the Bucks earned their 54th win all-time Cleveland outlasting the Cavs with a little bit of help 119-111.

The Cavs got off to a nice start taking an 8-2 lead on a Jarrett Allen layup with 10:12 left on the clock in the first period. Allen had six early points after he deposited another layup to give the Cavs a 10-4 lead with 9:17 left. The Cavs took a 12-6 lead with 8:17 left on two Isaac Okoro free throws after he was fouled by Brooks Lopez and then extended the lead to 14-6 with 7:45 left on a pullup jumper by Donovan Mitchell who was returning to the starting lineup after missing several games due to injury and illness. After a personal foul with 6:20 left in the first quarter Giannis Antetokounmpo was pulled from the game.  At this point Bucks coach Adrian Griffin took a timeout to calm his team. With 5:38 left the Cavs went up 20-12 on a dunk by Allen, he had 12 points to this point of the first quarter. After the Bucks cut the Cavs lead to 26-20 Allen continued his dominance as he hit a jumper for his 15th and 16th points of the game to extend the Cleveland lead to 28-20 with 2:51 left in the opening period. When the first 12 minutes expired the Cavs led 37-31. Allen lead all of Cuyahoga County with 16 first quarter points. Northeast Ohio native Damian Lillard led the Bucks with seven points. The Cavs dominated the paint led by Allen outscoring the Bucks 20-12. They also led on the boards with nine rebounds to the Bucks seven. Allen, Dean Wade, and the Bucks Giannis had three boards apiece. The Bucks turned the ball over five times resulting in six Cavalier points.

As the second quarter began Allen, Craig Porter, Jr., and Max Strus got a rest and Sam Merrill, seeing his first action since the Cavs were at home on December 21st due to a sore wrist entered the game as well as Tristan Thompson. It didn’t take long for the duo to get in the act as Thompson hit Merrill with 10:44 left and the second year phenom hit a three to give the Cavs a 42-21 lead. With 9:30 left Caris LeVert drained a jumper to give the Cavs their biggest lead of the game to that point at 44-31. The Buck needed to regroup and took a timeout. With 7:51 left the Bucks Bobby Portis committed a personal foul. Thompson took exception to the foul and the pair exchanged words and were both accessed technical fouls. Shortly after order was restored with 7:42 left Strus hit a jumper giving the Cavs 48-33 lead. Bickerstaff was able to rest Allen for the first 5:51 of the second quarter. When Giannis returned to the game with 6:09 left in the first half Bickerstaff countered with Allen. With 5:00 left in the first half the Bucks cut the Cleveland lead to 50-40 when Brooks Lopez drained a three from in front of the Cavaliers bench. After Mitchell turned the ball over the Bucks cut the Cavs lead to 50-43 on a three pointer by Malik Beasley with 4:25 left. The Cleveland lead shrunk even further just :26 later when Giannis dropped in a layup. He was fouled by Dean Wade but missed the foul shot. The Cavs lead was 50-45. After a bad pass by Allen the Bucks took advantage when Beasley hit another three shaving the Cavs lead to 52-48 with 2:43 remaining in the second quarter. After Strus blocked a shot by Khris Middelton with 1:07 left the Cavs took advantage and Strus buried a three at the other end to give the Cavs a 59-50 lead with :43 left on the second quarter clock. With :02.8 left in the half a questionable personal foul was called on Allen as Giannis basically tripped and fell. Giannis hit both free throws to make the score 59-52 in favor of the Cavs after 24 minutes. Mitchell led everyone in scoring with 19 first half points and Allen had 18. Milwaukee was led by Giannis with 14 first half points. The Cavs outrebounded the Bucks 24-18 in the first half. Cleveland dominated in the paint, outscoring Milwaukee 30-18. Bench points were nearly even as the Bucks had a slight edge 11-10. The Bucks turned the ball over 11 resulting in only nine Cavs points. The Cavs made five miscues and the Bucks took advantage with 10 points. Allen, who had a career high 23 rebounds on Wednesday night in Dallas pulled down eight in the first half to lead everyone.

At 10:26 the Bucks had gone a 9-2 run to tie the game at 61-61 on a three by Beasley. Just seconds later after a Strus miss Giannis scored on an alleyoop pass from Brooks Lopez to give Milwaukee only their second lead of the game to that point at 63-61 with 9:59 left in the third quarter. To make matters worse after the Cavs took a timeout Strus was jawing with the officials and was assessed a technical foul which was converted by Lillard to give the Bucks a 64-61 lead. The Cavs scored the next four points regaining the lead briefly on a running layup by Okoro after a Bucks turnover with 9:04 left in the third. After the Bucks lead had grown to four points the Cavs cut it to two points at 73-71 with 6:21 left when Allen scored his 21st and 2nd points of the game. With 5:13 left in the third and Giannis shooting two free throws, which he made both and gave the Bucks a 77-71 lead Merrill and Porter, Jr. reentered the game for the Cavs. With 4:07 left the bleeding was continuing and the Cavs eighth turnover of the game the Bucks took advantage and had their largest lead of the night to that point at 10, leading the Cavs 83-73. Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff had seen enough and took a timeout. After a hard foul with 3:44 left by Giannis on Thompson, Giannis the good sport he is rushed over to Thompson to help him up. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Thompson missed both free throws and the score remained 83-73. The Milwaukee lead continued to grow and with 2:52 left they led 88-73. The Cavs were ice cold from the field shooting only 7 of 19 for 36% to that point in the third quarter and also had turned the ball over three times resulting in six Bucks points. With :51.9 left in the third the Cavs cut the Bucks lead to 90-80 when Mitchell hit his second three of the game to that point adding to his total through three quarters at 30 points. With :00.5 left on the clock Isaac Okoro fouled Lillard. The play was reviewed to see if it occurred after the buzzer it was ruled to be the correct call and Lillard made both free throws giving the Bucks a 92-80 lead at the end of three. Mitchell’s total led all scorers. Allen Had 26 through three quarters needing only four more points to surpass his career high of 29 and tying hist season high of 26 which occurred in Philadelphia on November 21st.  

To start the fourth quarter, it was apparent that the shorthanded Cavs were in trouble, but as we have seen from them over the last few seasons under Bickerstaff, they were not about to give in. They cut the lead to 96-86 with 10:03 left after a steal by Strus and a fast break score by LeVert. The lead was cut to nine at 97-88 with 9:22 left when Porter, Jr. hit a running jumper in the paint. With 7:46 left in the quarter Porter, Jr. struck again cutting the Bucks lead to 101-93 on a jumper at the top of the paint. Porter, Jr. once again ignited the Cavs as he stole the ball and hit LeVert at the other end, LeVert deposited the ball in the hoop cutting the Bucks lead to 103-97 with 6:43 left in the game and the sellout crowd was on fire with excitement led by Browns superstar and NFL The Bucks lead was cut even further to 101defensive player of the year favorite Myles Garrett. The Buck’s lead was cut even further with 4:39 left when Mitchell hit Allen in the paint, and he hit a hook shot making the lead smaller at 105-101 and giving Allen a career high 30 points. One thing that was perfectly clear in the second half the Cavaliers were not going to be aloud to go near any Milwaukee player or a foul would be called. Giannis basically stumbled to the floor in front of Allen with 4:21 left and was called for a foul. Bickerstaff wanted it reviewed. As per usual with NBA officials the call was not overturned, the superstar gets preferential treatment. Allen now had two personal fouls. The Bucks went on a 4-0 scoring spurt to take a 109-101 lead on a dunk by Giannis with 3:32 left. The Cavs cut the lead to five when Porter, jr. hit a jumper in the paint and was fouled, he hit the free throw to give the undrafted guard nine points to that point. Another terrible call by the officials when Okoro was called for a personal foul on the Bucks other superstar Lillard when it was clear on replay that Okoro never touched him. Lillard made both free throws. The Cavs could not convert on their next possession and the Bucks took a 11-3104 lead with just 2:28 left on the game clock. The Cavs scored the next four points on baskets by Mitchell and Porter, Jr. cutting the Milwaukee lead to 113-108 with 1:48 remaining. With 1:08 left Mitchell was called for a legitimate foul on Lillard, he hit them both to extend the Bucks lead to 115-108. The Cavs were not going away as Porter, Jr. hit a three with :56 left cutting the Milwaukee lead to 115-111. After a Bucks miss and a miss three by Strus Giannis brought down the rebound passed it to Middelton and Mitchell fouled Middleton with :17.9 left. Middelton made both free throws to give the Bucks a 117-111 lead. A perfect example of NBA officiating as the Bucks went to the free throw line 28 times in the game and the Cavs just nine. When the final buzzer sounded the Bucks grabbed the victory 119-111. Officials Ben Taylor, Andy Nagy and Brandon Schwab saw contact with Bucks players that did not exist on multiple occasions in the game. Such a disparity in personal foul calls is a downright embarrassment to a league who claims to officiate games evenly.

Giannis led all scorers and Mitchell led all scorers with 34 points each. Lillard scored 31 for Milwaukee and Allen finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Lillard and Giannis went to the free throw line 18 times, double the total of the entire Cavs team.

Aside from the horrible officiating by Taylor, Nagy and Schwab the Cavs didn’t help themselves as they shot a miserable 6 of 43 for 14% from behind the three-point line in the game. When asked about that after the game Bickerstaff said that as much time as guys put in, he’s not going to tell them not to take shots when they are open. The Cavs were also outrebounded by the Bucks in the game 43-37 and 25-13 in the second half. The Cavs committed eight turnovers which resulted in 16 Bucks points. The Bucks committed 17 turnovers, but the Cavs were only able to turn those into 18 points.

The Cavs will be back in action on New Years Day when they travel to Toronto to play the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena at 7:30 pm. This meeting will be the second between the two teams this season. The Cavs won the first meeting at RMFH on November 26, 1-5-102. The Cavs lead the all-time series 55-50, but the Raptors do have the advantage in Toronto 29-23. 
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​POSTED 12/29/2023 22:05
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Cavaliers Center Jarrett Allen.                                     Photo by Tommy Shirer