We’ve already seen by now what the defending champion Cavs are capable of, and how much they have grown stronger since last season’s final thriller with the Warriors. Against the Bucks on Wednesday, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James stepped up to J.R. Smith and Kevin Love.
J.R. Smith was out of the game due to an injured right thumb. He failed to play on the second half against the Bucks on Tuesday. Team physicians were unable to come up with conclusive findings, but management says Smith could be out for a while for surgery according to a report by NBA.com.
Another starter missing games from the Cavs roster is power forward Kevin Love. He has been away for the second straight game with an injured left knee.
With the Cavs playing without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, their forecast for the game seemed dubious. DeAndre Liggins filled in for J.R. Smith, while Iman Shumpert substituted for him.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James stepped up with Cavs roster
“It’s next man up,” LeBron James told Cleveland.com. “And guys have to fill in, guys have to fill in and play their role. Don’t play J.R. Smith ‘s role. J.R. is a special talent so you don’t try to play his role, you just try to do more on your own and try to help the team win, so, hopefully we can get that.”
Mike Dunleavy and McRae added five and eight points respectively, as Kyrie Irving and LeBron James led the Cavs roster with 31 and 29 points. Tristan Thompson also made his mark in the game by defending the rim and snatching a total of 27 rebounds in twenty-four hours against the visiting Bucks, back-to-back.
Kyrie Irving, LeBron James refused to rest
That was coach Tyronn Lue’s plan. He wanted to keep Kyrie Irving and LeBron James at bay even with two starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out.
“Just to prove that we’re at a different level,” Kyrie Irving said. “I’m pretty sure he wanted to sit us. But tonight it was just going against a great Bucks team. It’s really just the competition at a high level. It was just another personal game of wanting to be out there and just competing.”
It was a perfect time to test their depth. And it wasn’t like they had a chance. Irving maintained his aggressiveness throughout the game, along with Thompson setting the pace early. Lue carefully managed James and Irving’s minutes at crucial moments.
“He (LeBron James) knows his body better than anyone,” Lue said. “Him and Mike Mancias, that’s the plan that they want. He’s been doing this for a long time, says he feels great and nights he doesn’t feel great he won’t play. He wants around 38 or 39 minutes per night and then he said end of January or early February we will tailor him down and scale him back so as of right now that’s the plan.”
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