INDEPENDENCE — The reeling Cavaliers trailed San Antonio 65-32 after two quarters Saturday, the 33-point deficit representing the largest halftime margin in the NBA this season.
The Spurs scored the first nine points of the second half to go up 42 and led by 43 soon after en route to a 126-96 victory, but there was a big bright spot for the Cavs.
A night after playing 18 minutes and posting eight points and four rebounds in a 104-100 loss in New Orleans, Andrew Bynum played in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Not only did Bynum play on consecutive nights, he had his best game of the year against the Spurs, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds in 21 minutes.
“I just played free,” Bynum said Monday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “That’s pretty much what I’m going to try to do.”
Bynum, who missed all of last season due to surgery on both knees, still feels sharp pains when he tries “to do something explosive,” but said he’s at the point where he thinks he can continue to play in every game.
“I think I can play 20 minutes a game at this point pretty comfortably,” he said. “I feel good.”
Bynum, who surprised everyone by playing in the Cavs’ season opener after not seeing a minute of action in the exhibition season, is averaging 6.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.2 blocks in 16.3 minutes a night. The 26-year-old is shooting .406 from the field and a sizzling .895 at the line.
Bynum has had a number of shots from the post go in and out, but he’s been deadly from the perimeter and might eventually get to the point where he shoots a 3-pointer or two.
Defense remains a work in progress. Bynum has been solid when it comes to blocking shots at the rim, but he still lacks the mobility to move away from the hoop. That has resulted in opposing big men either knocking down open jumpers or driving around him.
“He still needs to continue to grow on that end of the floor,” coach Mike Brown said. “I obviously saw him at his height when he was an All-Star (when Brown coached the Los Angeles Lakers). He was great offensively, very skilled, but he had an explosiveness to him, too, that we haven’t seen yet.
“Whether we see that or not, it doesn’t matter. He’s so big and so strong and so long and very intelligent, his offensive game will always be there. Nobody’s going to block his jump hook. He’ll always be able to step out to 17 feet and knock that shot down. He’ll always be able to step out to the 3-point line and, if he’s open, knock that shot down.
“The one thing he’s got to continue to work on is defense. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it throughout the year, but the one thing he could have been better on (against the Spurs) is defense — as well as everyone else.”
Bynum actually criticized his “D” before Brown did, but added, “As my knees get better, my defense will get better.”
His offense should also continue to improve, but Bynum and his new Cleveland teammates are still going through an adjustment period.
Point guard Kyrie Irving in particular has not produced much when Bynum has been on the floor, instead getting the majority of his points when Cleveland goes back to its guard-oriented offense with Bynum on the bench.
“I really don’t know the offense that well,” Bynum said. “I’m still learning it. That’s been a bit of an issue with the first unit.”
As well as Bynum played against the Spurs, the Cavs were still outscored by 20 points while he was on the floor.
They’re also a disappointing 4-10 overall and have lost six of their last seven games as they prepare to host LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The fact Bynum is even playing, however, has been a bright spot — and the Cavaliers aren’t too far away from increasing his minutes from the 20 a game he’s been playing recently.
That’s encouraging to Brown, who said he saw a few other positives in the Spurs game, even thought the Cavs “got beat up pretty good.”
The biggest positive, of course, was Bynum.
“He just showed his versatility offensively,” Brown said. “It’s the first time he’s gotten close to showing everybody the full package of what he can do.”
Point guard Jarrett Jack, who strained a muscle in his neck against San Antonio, went through a full practice Monday.
* Swingman C.J. Miles went through portions of practice, but was held out of contact drills.
* No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett had a career-high nine points on 4-for-5 shooting and added five rebounds in 12 minutes of garbage-time action against San Antonio. He also had five turnovers and three fouls.
* Undrafted rookie guard Matthew Dellavedova had a career-high 14 points and four steals in 34 minutes versus the Spurs while making his second straight start. The previous night, he was scoreless in 12 minutes against New Orleans.