BOB FINNAN

rfinnan@MorningJournal.com

The Cavaliers' bench has been so bad this season, the lone bright spot sometimes gets overlooked.

Guard Daniel Gibson has averaged 17.5 points off the bench in the last two games. On the season, he's averaging 9.7 points and 2.4 rebounds and is shooting 44.1 percent from the 3-point arc.

"I think he's doing all that he can," Cavs coach Byron Scott said after his team's 106-91 loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday. "He's playing both ends of the floor, and we're trying to get him as many shots as possible.

"He seems to be the one guy right now that's hot in the second unit. He's doing a great job on the defensive end. We just have to get someone else in that second unit to step up."

Gibson, 26, missed 31 games last year with a variety of injuries, the last of which was a torn tendon in his ankle. After having surgery, he wasn't able to play basketball for almost five months.

He said he's almost all the way back from the surgery.

"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable and that's taking my game to a new level," Gibson said. "I can really play and not depend on the 3-point shots."

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, now in his seventh year with the Cavs, said it's the second unit's job not to relinquish the lead. Scott originally planned on wholesale substitutions early in the season, as he tried to send five reserve players onto the court to replace the starters.

When that didn't work, he tried a staggered method where he would substitute one or two bench players with the starters. That seems to be the answer for now.

The next quest is to find some production from his backups not nicknamed "Boobie." Jon Leuer and Omri Casspi are currently the backups at power forward and small forward, respectively. That can change in a moment's notice.

Samardo Samuels was the first player off the bench in the Thunder game. After committing two dumb personal fouls, he sat after a 6-minute, 21-second stretch and Leuer was summoned.

The 6-10 Leuer did very little in his 23 minutes: four points and two rebounds.

"We've got to hold the floor," Gibson said. "It's our job to hold the floor. The first group plays phenomenal and we have to make sure that we sustain that with whatever is necessary. Whether that's playing off our defense, whatever we've got to do, we've got to improve. That's the ownership we've got to take."

The fractured cheekbone/concussion suffered by backup center Tyler Zeller last week has thrown the second unit into a tizzy. He was injured in the Los Angeles Clippers game on Nov. 5. The 7-footer had 15 points and seven rebounds before catching an elbow from Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. The Cavs (2-5) haven't won since.

Zeller is being fitted with a mask and still hasn't gotten the medical clearance to play after the concussion. He's not on the trip and won't play in tonight's game. The Cavs might be aiming for the Dallas game on Saturday.

Casspi had seven points, four rebounds and two steals, but shot 1 of 7 from the field against the Thunder. If Scott wanted that kind of shooting, he would have stuck with struggling swingman C.J. Miles.

Casspi will likely get another look in tonight's 7:30 game against the Brooklyn Nets (3-2) at the palatial Barclays Center.

It's the final game of the Cavs' six-game road trip. They are 1-4 so far on the trip and are riding a three-game losing streak.

Miles, a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, has gotten off to an extremely slow start and has been benched. He was saddled with a "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision" on Sunday.

Miles played well in the preseason and looked like he'd be a reliable scorer for the Cavs, either off the bench or maybe even in the starting lineup. But once the lights went on for real, he's flopped.

Gibson said the Cavs aren't ready to compete just yet.

"We always show spurts of what we're able to do," he said. "The growth of this team will show whenever we're able to be consistent and play a full 48-minute game again, again and again - that's when we'll take the next step."