The Milwaukee Bucks look to maintain their recent hold on the Cavaliers on Saturday when the teams reconvene in Cleveland.
The Bucks opened a six-game road trip with a 123-105 victory over the Cavaliers on Friday. Six is the operative number; Milwaukee has defeated Cleveland on six straight occasions dating back to the 2018-19 season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo overcame early foul trouble in the first half to score 22 of his 33 points after intermission in Friday’s victory. The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player appeared far more comfortable in the third quarter, and that allowed Milwaukee to turn the tide.
Antetokounmpo “obviously didn’t play as much in the first half but got into a good rhythm,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We got some stops, we got out and made some good things happen in transition, and then he was making plays in the half court and plays in the paint.”
Milwaukee eschewed the perimeter game in favor of exploiting the interior while rolling up 74 points in the paint. The Bucks made 21 shots from 3-point range in each of their previous two games before attempting just 22 (making seven) on Friday.
Antetokounmpo, who also had 12 rebounds on Friday, sat out with back spasms in Milwaukee’s 100-90 win over the Cavaliers on Jan. 9.
Jrue Holiday scored 17 points in the most recent meeting, a game that was complicated for the Bucks after mechanical issues with their plane forced them to fly to Cleveland on Friday.
“It was back to AAU days where you just hop off the plane and you just start hooping,” Holiday told Fox Sports Wisconsin. “We feel like we’re a team that takes on a lot of things, and to be able to go through this obstacle and get the win is a good feeling.”
Good feelings for the Cavaliers have been few and far between of late. Cleveland has lost six of its last eight games to fall a season-worst three games below .500.
The Bucks outscored the Cavaliers by a 63-42 margin in the second half, with Cleveland making just 3 of 13 shots from 3-point range in that stretch.
“I think they broke our spirit,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “They made us pay for mistakes, and they keep coming. They keep coming, they keep coming. I thought we lost some of that determination and the fourth quarter just hit back. I think that’s something that we just have to talk about as a team and get through it.”
Jarrett Allen also cited his team’s defensive mistakes as a reason for the Cavaliers’ downfall on Friday.
“We just need to sharpen up on the defensive end and know our coverages a little better and give a little more effort,” Allen said.
Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 19 points. He missed the previous encounter with Milwaukee with a sprained left ankle.
Andre Drummond collected 26 points and 24 rebounds in the first meeting and had 18 and nine, respectively, on Friday.
–Field Level Media