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Bucks beat Cavs, stave off worst record

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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MILWAUKEE — Guard Brandon Knight helped the Milwaukee Bucks avoid clinching the NBA’s worst record for at least one more night.

Knight led Milwaukee with 24 points, while guard Ramon Sessions added 20 points and seven assists on his birthday in a 119-116 win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

The Bucks came out on top in a fast-paced, back-and-forth fourth quarter in which the lead changed five times.

A pair of free throws from forward Jeff Adrien put Milwaukee up by six points with 43.9 seconds left. After guard Dion Waiters cut the lead to four with a floater, Knight missed a jumper, giving Cleveland the ball with 8.9 seconds on the clock.

Point guard Kyrie Irving’s long 3-point attempt missed the basket and was pulled down by guard Giannis Antetokounmpo to seal the win for Milwaukee.

Bucks coach Larry Drew felt his team played with a slight edge defensively in the high-scoring affair as he stressed throughout the game the importance of getting a “string of stops” late in the game.

“I thought we played with a little more urgency, particularly on the defensive end in the second half, and it enabled us to get out and get some easy baskets,” Drew said. “I just felt whichever team from a defensive standpoint would make some sort of stand, they’d have a pretty good chance of winning the game.”

Forward Chris Wright had a highlight-reel night with several huge dunks, including two alley-oops off feeds from Knight and Antetokounmpo in the first half. Wright scored 14 points, pulled down four rebounds and recorded a block in his first double-digit game in a Bucks uniform.

Knight credited his performance to “staying ready” and always “being ready when your number is called.”

“That’s what coach (Larry Drew) always tells me: ‘When I put you in there, you go out there and bring energy, you play defense, you run the floor.’ Now, with me being here, that’s my role on this team, to go out there and bring energy.”

Waiters led Cleveland with 23 points and a career-high five steals. Guard Jarrett Jack picked up 19 off the bench, while forward Tristan Thompson had a nice night under the basket for the Cavaliers with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Irving came into the game averaging 26.4 points per game against the Bucks (his most against any opponent) but was held to just 12.

The Cavaliers had their streak of allowing 45 points in the paint or less snapped at 18 games, as Milwaukee finished with 58 points in the frontcourt.

Jack said his team allowed way too many points especially due to the high caliber of defense it’s played this season.

“In this league sometimes you struggle with playing in the moment and sometimes you struggle with playing to the competition that you’re playing against,” Jack said. “Obviously the moment with us that we’re in is being eliminated from the playoffs and guys struggle with the whole ‘we’re playing for nothing’-type of cause.

“But, you have to tip your hat to (the Bucks). They came out regardless of what their record was and they played their same basketball to get the win tonight.”

Milwaukee led 37-32 after the first quarter, but Waiters got going in the second with 13 points, sparking a 23-4 Cleveland run. Knight and forward Khris Middleton helped the Bucks narrow the deficit to 69-62 with six points each to close out the half.

Waiters hit the ground hard after a foul on a dunk attempt, but he recovered to make both free throws to put the Cavaliers up by five with 5:35 left in the third quarter.

A triple from Knight followed by a layup from center John Henson gave Milwaukee an 87-86 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter.

Forward Tyler Zeller cut the Milwaukee advantage to 92-91 with a hook shot, then put back a Waiters miss to retake the lead for Cleveland with 10:27 left in the game. Jack pushed the Cavaliers’ lead to 96-92 with a 3-pointer, but Wright and Sessions scored back-to-back to tie the game at 96.

From there the Bucks were able to get the stops Drew had hoped for to slowly but surely pull away.

Cleveland coach Mike Brown was disappointed in his team’s effort and hopes it will rebound to finish strong despite missing out on the postseason.

“I don’t think we played good basketball tonight,” Brown said. “There were a lot of areas during the course of the game where we didn’t play good basketball. We probably put together an eight-minute stretch in the first half and maybe a five-minute stretch in the second half. Other than that we were just out there playing the game in my opinion.”

The Cavaliers’ remaining schedule consists of home games against Boston on Saturday and Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Bucks head to Washington, D.C., Saturday to take on the Wizards, then to Toronto on Monday before the home finale Wednesday against Atlanta.

NOTES: This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season, with Cleveland taking the previous two contests at Quicken Loans Arena. … The Cavs were without F Anthony Bennett (left patellar tendon strain), G C.J. Miles (left ankle sprain) and G/F Carrick Felix (left patellar stress fracture). … The absence of G/F Carlos Delfino (right foot surgery), F Ersan Ilyasova (sore right ankle), G Nate Wolters (fractured left hand), G O.J. Mayo (sprained right ankle) and C Larry Sanders (suspension) caused the Bucks to play with just four reserves.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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