Kyrie Irving’s Flu Game won’t go down as a night as memorable as Michael Jordan’s Flu Game front the 1997 NBA Finals. But, with Irving visibly slowed down by the flu and with a little help from his friends, Irving carried the Cavaliers to a 114-111 overtime victory.
And, thus, on Anderson Varejao bobble head night, with the lowly Milwaukee Bucks in town, the Cleveland Cavaliers seemingly were set up for an easy Friday night of work. But as tends to happen with this team, that easy night of work turned into a close game where a big night from a flu-stricken Kyrie Irving and timely plays from the likes of Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Earl Clark help the Cavaliers defeat the Milwaukee Bucks. Irving lead all scorers with 39 points, while O.J. Mayo lead the Bucks with 20 points off the bench.
From the get-go, the Cavaliers weren’t on their A-game. On the first two Cavaliers possession, Andrew Bynum missed a shot (the first of 11 misses on the night) and Alonzo Gee committed a turnover. And for the entire quarter, the game remained close. The Cavaliers didn’t get their first lead of the game until past the halfway mark, when Irving scored a layup in transition and completed an “And-1″ after being fouled by Mayo. But then, Miles committed two bad turnovers – one a foolish cross-court pass, one a lazy ball swing – that resulted in Milwaukee points. And at the end of the quarter, the Cavaliers defense was sucked to one side, leaving Khris Middleton open for a wide-open three. After one, the Wine & Gold trailed the Bucks 26-25.
The second quarter was more of the same – solid play mixed in with purely dreadful basketball. For instance, just a possession after hitting a timely three-pointer, Matthew Dellavedova wasted a great block by Varejao by missing the pass. All in all, the second quarter represented the Cavaliers struggles in this game. Without Irving in, and with the non-Dion Waiters second unit asked to carry the load, the team looked nothing like the one that pushed Portland and Miami to the brink over the past week. At the half, Cleveland and Milwaukee were tied at 47 all.
The second half picked up where the second left off. Both teams had their moments, but it largely a contest between two basketball times just trying to get by. A highlight came when Irving swatted Brandon Knight. Also of note was some awful officiating that almost cost the Cavaliers the game. Late in the fourth, Varejao was called for a foul when John Henson fell in the open court. The Cavaliers’ big man never touched Henson and was called for a technical for his reaction.
With 1.8 seconds to play, and the Cavaliers down two, Irving drove the lane, but missed. However, Tristan Thompson was there to clean up the mess and he tied the game at 96 all.
In overtime, after Jarrett Jack missed a layup on the Cavaliers first possession, Irving made Middleton collapse way back, took a second to center himself and nailed an open three. From there, the game was close until the final buzzer sounded, but along the way, the Wine & Gold responded at the right times.
Earl Clark, for instance, came up big after Thompson went to the bench with foul trouble and hit a dagger of a three that gave the Cavaliers a five-point lead. Varejao had a few key offensive rebounds that kept possessions alive. Even Jack hit a big shot that helped the Cavaliers maintain their lead.
But in the end, it came down to Irving. Four free throws at the end of the game iced it for the Wine & Gold and he even was able to take extra time off the clock by avoiding Milwaukee defenders with some insane dribbling.
And when that final buzzer sounded and the Cavaliers won 114-111 despite a overall sloppy performance from the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving carried the day when he probably should have been at home resting in bed, sipping on soup and juice.
PG Kyrie Irving – 39 points on 25 shots, 42 minutes, six assists, four blocks, 11-12 from the line
Irving was sensational tonight, plain and simple. He was clearly sick on the floor and several of the comments he made to the media post game indicated how ill he truly felt. His 39 were not only a game high. but also 19 points higher than any other player in the game. I was wowed by Irving tonight, as he was simply spectacular and showed some real heart in playing 42 minutes. Now if he can just play a little better defense.
SG C.J. Miles – 30 minutes, 4-8 shooting, 15 points
Miles had an alright game. In the first half, he had a few ugly passes that resulted in easy points for the Bucks, but he also hit a few timely shots and was solid on defense overall. Not great, but he was serviceable.
SF Alonzo Gee – +/- of +11, four points, 1-7 shooting
How the heck did Gee have the highest +/- on the roster when he was 1-7 from the field and and was clanking seemingly every open three he took. Earl Clark was far more effective than Gee tonight and hopefully he start to see less.
PF Tristan Thompson – 29 minutes, 10 points, 4-12 shooting, 15 rebounds
Thompson struggled heavily on offense but did a decent overall job tonight. He also had the tip in that sent the game to overtime and rebounded well overall. On the negative side, the 4-12 shooting is a concern, since he had several point black misses. Foul trouble also limited Thompson in overtime.
C Andrew Bynum – 3-14 shooting, eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks
Offensively, Bynum has really struggled the last few games and doesn’t look like the player who got on a role not too long ago. However, he did rebound well and was a difference maker on the inside. All in all, this game was another remind to me that Bynum can have a good impact on this team. but no one known how to do it yet.
F Earl Clark – 4-6 from behind the arc, 5-8 from the field, 14 points
You could answer Anderson Varejao here and I wouldn’t complain, as he pulled down double-digit boards off the bench and created numerous second chance points. But Earl Clark was really good tonight and his three-pointing shoot came up timely when the Cavaliers needed it the most. He also hit his shots when he was open and in the flow of the offense. I know he’s playing more power forward now, but he would have my vote to play more three and to maybe even start.
Give Mike Brown his kudos for his coaching effort tonight. He had to deal with having no Dion Waiters available and had an overall short roster to pick from. As a whole, his bench But he chose his lineups well and got the most out of everyone tonight. I’d still like to see more on the offensive end (for example, in terms of time management) but Brown did a solid job tonight on the whole.
At the press conference, Brown was defensive of how his bench played, specifically of Jarrett Jack. Jack, who was 6-17 from the floor for 17 points, but missed at least three close shots. Predictably, Brown focused on his task of defending O.J. Mayo.
“I thought Jarrett was big for us. Especially with us missing a guy like Dion, Jarrett was a guy who was kinda a secondary ball handler for us on the backside of pick & roll action and stuff like that. And I thought he hit some big shots. You’re not going to stop a scorer like O.J. Mayo. O.J. can shoot the ball, he can score the basketball at a really high level and I thought the times Jarrett was on him, he made him work.” – Brown on Jarrett Jack’s performance.
And some other quotes.
“At one point, to me, I guess he wasn’t. At one point, I thought he looked gassed a little bit in the second half and I just asked if ya’ alright and he gave me that little boyish smile that he has, and I knew once he gave me that little smile I knew he was okay.” – Brown on whether or not he would keep Irving in the game despite his illness.
“We didn’t put any pressure on anybody. Maybe they might have felt it, I don’t know but our bench was production wasn’t bad. Had 38 points, 37 points. That’s not bad to get from your bench. Andy had 13 rebounds. I thought out bench did a solid job minus Dion.” – Brown on how the bench played minus Waiters.