The Cleveland Cavaliers held the first of six hardwood classics nights on Thursday night as they began a three game home stand at Quicken Loans Arena against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cleveland wore uniforms from the 1970’s and put up a groovy performance even without four of their top eight players at some point in the game. The Cavaliers snapped their two game losing streak and avenged last Saturday’s loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee with a 115-100 win.
Cleveland built a lead of 21 points late in the first half and overcame a pair of second half runs by Milwaukee to improve to an eastern conference best 9-3 on the young season. The Cavaliers played without Mo Williams who missed the game with a right leg injury suffered on Tuesday night in Detroit. Timofey Mozgov suffered a right shoulder strain in the first half and did not play in the second half.
The Cavaliers played with the next man up philosophy on Thursday night. Matthew Dellavedova and Anderson Varejao stepped up and filled in quite nicely for the injured Williams and Mozgov. Dellavedova started at point guard and logged a team high 39 minutes along with J.R. Smith. Dellavedova finished with a game high 13 assists, nine of them coming in the first half. Dellavedova finished with seven points as well.
“What I like about Delly’s game tonight though is that he made simple plays,” head coach David Blatt said. “He made them at the right times.”
Varejao stepped up big in the second half with nine points on a perfect four of four shooting. Varejao played eleven minutes in the second half. With Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Mozgov in the rotation, minutes have been hard to come by for Varejao. He may not be 100 percent healthy from last years season ending achillies injury, but when Varejao is on the floor int’s amazing how much of a difference his energy reflects on his teammates.
“Andy really gave us a lift,” Blatt said. “He’s worked very hard to get himself back to game shape and Andy’s one of the main reasons we we the game tonight.
“One thing you can’t control is injuries but one thing you can control is how you play with the guys who are out there,” LeBron James said. “We got a huge boost from Andy. We expect that out of him.”
James lead the wine and gold with 27 points and shot the basketball much better both from the field, 9-13, and from the foul line, 8-9. James also had nine rebounds and six assists. Kevin Love continues to accumulate double doubles in the young season. Love finished with 22 points, 17 in the first half, with a game high 15 rebounds. Smith added 18 points and connected on four of eight attempts from three point territory.
The bench was a big reason the Cavaliers got back in the win column on Thursday night. Cleveland’s bench outscored Milwaukee bench 39-12. It took the entire active roster to bring home a much needed victory after two disappointing losses on the road to Milwaukee and Detroit.
“This is how we need to play,” James said. “There’s no ifs ands or buts. I think we answered the call on what we talked about. We’re just trying to get better.”
“It’s not about what I said, it’s about what they did,” Blatt said. “I thought those guys came with a real purpose tonight. You saw it on them. You saw it in their approach. We were sharp and we were aggressive and we were physical and we were pretty tough.”
Thompson recorded another double double with 12 points and eleven rebounds off the bench. Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Bucks with a game high and a career best 33 points. Cleveland finished the game shooting 56 percent from the field and 80 percent from the foul line. The Cavaliers also won the rebounding and assist battles.