In Cleveland, the Cavaliers (50-20) hosted the young Milwaukee Bucks (30-41) for a rematch of 2015 playoffs’ first round in the Eastern Conference. David Blatt was in charge in the last matchup in Cleveland, which saw the Cavs out-rebound the Bucks 43-22 to get the win 115-100, while Tyronn Lue‘s Cavaliers have a 20-9 record (.690) entering Wednesday night’s game.
Milwaukee: Bayless, Middleton, Antetokounmpo, Parker, Monroe
Cleveland: Irving, Smith, James, Love, Mozgov
The Cavaliers got four easy baskets to start the game: Irving opened the score with an open baseline jumper, James slammed it home and Mozgov got two uncontested points in the paint. The rebound issue for the Bucks continued, as the Cavaliers grabbed two on the offensive glass early in the game. Milwaukee tried to keep pace with a couple of assists by a reinvented Antetokounmpo at the PG spot and a solid start by Jabari Parker (3/3 to begin the game). The Cavs‘ great ball movement, though, got them 35 first quarter points and a 10-point lead (25-35).
As Jason Kidd asked his team to do a better job at defense, the Cavs continued putting up easy points in the paint (24 after 18 minutes), due to not having luck from the arc: just 3/13 from downtown midway through the second quarter, even though they had really good looks.
Meanwhile, Giannis was seeking his fifth triple-double of the season with 10p-5a-4r, as the Bucks made it back within 1 (49-50) thanks to an 18-6 run: a great perimeter shooting (6/7 at that point in the game) and a couple of lefty hooks by John Henson. LeBron James answered with 12p-6a-4r of his own to keep the lead (61-63) going to the locker room.
The Bucks came back on the court with a great attitude, claiming their first lead of the game (69-68). Unfortunately for them, it didn’t last long: the Cavs began getting all sorts of baskets: Kevin Love finally sunk a couple of threes, while James threw down a highlight reverse dunk off a J.R. Smith assist. The lead soon got up to double-digit figures (90-80), but, once again, Jason Kidd‘s second unit guided by Henson, Plumlee and Cunnigham got both the offense and defense rolling: a great 52 FG% and 40 3PT%, as well as great defensive possessions allowed them to come back within 4 at the end of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers put up a run to make it a 10-point lead for the third time in the game. Die hard Bucks tried to close up the gap once more, but the intensity by the Cavs off the boards (31 Bucks, 42 Cavs) got Cleveland four consecutive offensive possession to wind the clock down. Giannis and Bayless combined for a 6/7 from the field in the fourth quarter to keep hopes alive, but J.R. Smith‘s triple with 20 seconds to go put a seal on the deal (111-102). The final result was 113-104 for the Cavaliers.
Box score highlights
Cleveland: LeBron James 26p-8a-6r, Kyrie Irving 16p-8a-8r, Kevin Love 24p-10r;
Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo 24p-6a-6r, Jerryd Bayless 15p-5r.