CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 113-102 win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday:
1. Everyone knows the Cavs were without the injured Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, and Kyrie Irving described the win best. “That’s championship pedigree right there,” Irving told FOX Sports Ohio.
2. Irving sure played like a champion on this night, the second of a home-and-home against a team that looks like the NBA’s future. He finished with 31 points, a career-high 13 assists and a whole lot of dazzling moves.
3. Actually, Irving has been playing like a champion a lot. (As an aside, he is indeed a champion.) But just to offer another example — he’s now scored 20 or more points in 16 of the last 17.
4. LeBron James on Irving: “He was spectacular tonight.”
5. James wasn’t too bad himself. He finished with 29 points and nine rebounds one night after going for 34 and 12. He also went 4-of-7 on 3-pointers one night after 5-of-9. Thankfully for the Cavs, James also played 13 less minutes Wednesday.
6. So how did the Cavs beat the Bucks on two consecutive nights, minutes two starters? “Our attention to detail,” James said. “We were sharp from the beginning. We did a great job of getting back in transition, a great job of rebounding and sharing the ball.”
7. Cavs center Tristan Thompson led the way in the area of board work, finishing with 15 — or nearly twice as many as anyone else in the whole stinkin’ game. He was magnificent against the Bucks ultra-athletic frontline, swatting four shots.
8. OK, back to the injuries. According to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, Love should be good to go for Friday’s home game against Brooklyn. (That fall two days before Golden State, which I know is the game that’s actually on your mind.)
9. The news on Smith, of course, isn’t nearly as cheery. His broken thumb needs surgery, and while the Cavs haven’t released an official timetable, reports estimate he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.
10. Better to lose Smith now than later, though. The increased minutes will be good for DeAndre Liggins in the long run. Liggins filled in as the starting shooting guard. The same goes for Iman Shumpert, who’s been much better this season. And hey, even Jordan McRae got to play.
11. With the exception of Philadelphia, there appears to be little interest across the league in McRae. And the 76ers are only “slightly” interested, according to a league source. So you may as well see what the guy can do here.
12. James on the Smith news: “It’s tough when you lose guys who mean so much to the team’s success. Obviously, it’s gonna be a while until we get J.R. back. It’s next man up. Guys have to fill in and play their tole. You can’t play J.R.’s role, you just try to do more of your own.”
13. And thank heavens the Cavs don’t see the Bucks (13-14) again until late February. Giannis Antetokounmpo (28 points) and Jabari Parker (27 points) are All-Stars. They may not play in the game this season, but that’s beside the point. They’re already two of the league’s best.
14. Finally, with the Warriors looming on Christmas Day, Cavs fans will be happy to know LeBron answered this way when asked about potentially seeing Milwaukee in the playoffs: “I’m ready for whatever matchup.”
15. Shumpert, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson added 10 points apiece for the Cavs (21-6). Jefferson was thrown out for yelling at an official in the second half. “He got ejected, so what,” Irving told FOX Sports Ohio, shrugging and smirking. “Probably pay his fine for him.”