You're going to probably lose whenever the backcourt rotation of Nate Wolters, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal is allowed to combine for 60 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. This becomes especially true when the team those three guards are leading collectively shoots 50 percent from the floor and 56.5 percent from three-point range.
Despite a furious rally led by Kyrie Irving over the final three minutes, the Cleveland Cavaliers would fall 109-104 to the Milwaukee Bucks based on all of the reasons referenced above.
Their fate would eventually be sealed after Irving dribbled off his foot while trailing by one with under a minute to play. But even though Irving, along with Dion Waiters and Sixth Man of the Year candidate C.J. Miles helped give Cleveland a chance to steal one on the road, the Cavs had no real business making it as close as they eventually did.
Mike Brown's team dug a hole by appearing tired to start the game and not playing with the defensive energy he requires. In this league, even the teams that are bad to begin with before they lose Brandon Knight, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova are capable of winning when that happens.
That's the biggest lesson this young Cavs team with an average age of 23.8 will hopefully take from their latest trip to Milwaukee: Coach Brown's not kidding, you guys really have to defend consistently on a nightly basis or you can definitely lose to anybody.
Irving's Best Offensive Performance This Year Fuels Late Rally
Before dribbling off his toe, Kyrie Irving had pieced together his best offensive performance of the 2013-14 campaign with 29 points, eight assists and five rebounds on 50 percent shooting. He also had only two turnovers after giving it away nine time against the Timberwolves.
What was also important is that Irving not only got himself going offensively, but he also helped Dion Waiters finish with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with three rebounds and three assists. Waiters came out with the right approach by attacking the basket early, but I really thought he hit another gear after Irving created that wide-open, second-half three-point field-goal that Dion was able to knock down.
At the same time, though, the Cavs starting guards also had their worst defensive game collectively but I think I've beaten the 'Cavs played bad defense last night' thing into the ground at this point.
What was interesting, though, is that the Cavaliers ran the same play on the last offensive possession in Milwaukee as they did twice to close out the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week. Instead of trying to beat the defense himself this time, it was somewhat positive to see Irving decide to accept the Anderson Varejao screen in Milwaukee.
Obviously that didn't work either, but the decision showed some level of maturity in my opinion from the standpoint of trying to run the play that was called. Hopefully next time he gets himself to the basket and finishes.
The Floodgates Can Now Open For Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett can now just relax and begin playing basketball after finally making his first NBA field goal. I told Ken Carman last night on 92.3 The Fan that I've remained encouraged by Bennett's activity from a defense and rebounding perspective and that continued against the Bucks.
Bennett appears to be athletic enough to use his size to defend both 3's and 4's to an extent and seems to have picked up Brown's concepts pretty well.
There's also no way he could be as bad as 0-18 from the floor offensively, either. So hopefully that gigantic smile he had on his face after finally knocking down a shot in live-game action is indicative of unnecessary pressure that's now lifted from his huge Canadian shoulders.
Moving forward, however, Bennett does need to chill on the three-point attempts. I get that he's taking those shots because he's wide-open, but after going 1-of-11 on the year from long range I also get why he is wide open every time he catches it out there.
Bynum's return to Philadelphia
Next up for the 2-3 Cavaliers is Bynum Mania as Andrew Bynum makes his historic return to Philadelphia on Friday night. Hopefully he does end up playing like he said he would because this could be his coming out party.
It would also be a good time to see an extended version of the Cavaliers 'Twin Towers' lineup featuring Anderson Varejao and his pinpoint accurate 12-foot jumper alongside the Cavs' gigantic center.
More on all that later.
Photo: AP File