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Bucks 96, Cavaliers 80

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CLEVELAND — Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight scored 26 points to beat the beleaguered Cleveland Cavaliers 96-80 on Wednesday night.

The Cavs were playing without forwards LeBron James, Kevin Love and Shawn Marion. They also recently lost center Anderson Varejao for the season to an Achilles tendon injury. With 41 points per game missing between Love and James, the Cavs shot a season-worst 34 percent and narrowly missed setting a new low for points in a game this season (78).

James missed his second consecutive game and third this season with a sore left knee that has bothered him all season. Love left Tuesday’s loss at the Atlanta Hawks early with back spasms and was unable to play when he arrived at the arena Wednesday. Reserve forward Shawn Marion continues to nurse a left ankle he injured last week in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.

The Cavs enjoyed relatively good health for the season’s first two months, but all of that is changing. They’ve lost three straight and four of their last five while rumors about coach David Blatt’s future have already started swirling less than halfway into his first season.

“I don’t much care about what people say about me I care about what happens to my team,” Blatt said. “All the other stuff I can deal with and have dealt with on many occasions in the past.”

The Bucks are dealing with their own injury concerns. Center Larry Sanders missed his fourth consecutive game with an illness and will be examined Thursday in Milwaukee, coach Jason Kidd said.

O.J. Mayo scored 15 points off the bench, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 14 points and the Bucks held the Cavs to one basket during a five-minute stretch in the third quarter to open a 17-point lead. They extended that lead to 22 in the fourth.

Guard Kyrie Irving scored 25 points, forward Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 13 rebounds and guard Dion Waiters scored 10 points off the bench. The Cavs (18-14) have lost three straight and four of five amid all the injuries. The surprising Bucks moved back over .500 (17-16) with the win.

James said all tests on his knee have come back negative, but he couldn’t commit to playing in Friday’s game at the Charlotte Hornets.

“It’s been hurting pretty much all year,” James said. “I’ve been playing with it. It goes away and comes back.”

NOTES: Bucks F Jerryd Bayless was a late scratch Wednesday with a sore left knee. … The Bucks worked out free agent Kenyon Martin in Cleveland on Tuesday but haven’t decided yet whether or not to sign him. … Cavs F LeBron James dismissed a video that exploded online on Wednesday. Television cameras caught James and Heat G Dwyane Wade embracing after the game, during which time James seemed to say something about reuniting with Wade and doing even bigger and better things. James denied it had anything to do with basketball. “If I was going to tell him that, I’d tell him that the night before,” James said. “I’m not stupid. I know I didn’t go to college, but I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t say that on Christmas with 100 cameras around. I would’ve told him the night before at his house.” … James said he isn’t overly concerned with his injured left knee, which has bothered him all season and forced him to miss three games now. “I’ve got 41,000 minutes in my career, including the playoffs,” he said. “You drive that car in the wintertime.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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