There was a very good reason LeBron James recruited Mike Miller to join him with the Cleveland Cavaliers and for the first time this season, the veteran shooter showed his value with a unique shooting display, leading to a 95-91 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
James led the Cavaliers with 22 points on only 7-of-18 from the field, adding 9 assists, as he moved up to 23rd on the all-time scoring list. But it wasn’t an impressive game from him or from the rest of his teammate stars. Kyrie Irving continued his awful form with 6-of-18 from the field, scoring only 16 points. Kevin Love finished with only 6 points on 1-of-10 from the field. The Cavaliers were usually better when the bench unit was on, as Shawn Marion got pushed down the rotation again.
Mike Miller was the exception. The Cavaliers were still losing when he was on the floor, but it had more to do with his teammates missing wide open shots, and the continuous defensive problems the Cavaliers can’t seem to be able to fix. Miller finished with 21 points, all coming on 3-point attempts, missing just one of the shots. It was his first double digit game since joining the Cavaliers, playing for only the third time in December and his first game in over two weeks.
But Miller was the only thing getting praise at the end of the game. Well, maybe him and the bench players, especially Tristan Thompson and Shawn Marion, combining to score 17 points and playing some very good defense. Thompson did a much better job than Varejao on both ends of the floor, and needs to start playing more minutes at center, maybe even in the lineup, grabbing 10 rebounds as well to narrowly miss the double double.
The Cavaliers are a troubled team, flawed and lacking confidence. Dion Waiters has been reduced to just seven minutes a night. If last season he wasn’t happy and seemed to be on the verge of being traded, it’s hard to imagine he’s actually pleased at the moment. The defense looks good one minute before laziness and confusion erupts and causes the Cavaliers the same problems that have been dragging them down the entire season.
The Nets, going the opposite direction of the Cavaliers because everyone is up for trade, had Joe Johnson with 26 points, and that’s about it. The Nets are at 10-15, without any hope for the future before they get rid of the contracts they have or simply run them out. In short, there’s some smart basketball to witness from time to time but most of it is seeing overpaid, aging players fighting to stay relevant in a league that’s getting more and more difficult for them.
The Cavaliers shooting just 40.3% from the field and still winning is something to be encouraged about, and Miller providing a shooting performance that we all know isn’t a rarity. The problem right now for the Cavaliers is confidence, consistency and finally shooting well. James being unable to trust Irving or Love to step up their shooting and scoring these days isn’t helping a team that can still be labeled as a slight disappointment.