Cavaliers beat Bucks, end losing streak
Cleveland led by as many as 20 points in third quarter
MILWAUKEE — Normal NBA protocol is for teams to travel immediately after a game when the schedule has back-to-back nights.
The Cavaliers broke with that protocol Saturday, choosing to stay home after a 10-point loss to Indiana and travel to Milwaukee the morning of their game against the Bucks.
Whether that played a role in the Cavaliers’ 94-82 victory, which snapped a six-game losing streak, is debatable but coach Byron Scott wasn’t complaining.
“Maybe we should stay at home and fly in the day of the game every trip,” Scott said.
Scott had reason to smile as all five starters scored in double digits, paced by an 18-point effort from Dion Waters. Kyrie Irving added 15 points, including a key layup as time expired in the third quarter, ending a 16-6 Milwaukee run that brought the Bucks within six after being down 20 just four minutes earlier.
“When Coach called timeout, they were making a run,” Irving said. “They got it to within 10, but when we came out of the timeout, we pulled together and said, ‘It’s not going to happen today.’ They made their run, but we stayed solid, slowed the game down and started to play at our pace.”
With Anderson Varejao, who is leading the league with 14.4 rebounds per game, back in Cleveland recovering from a knee injury, Tristan Thompson stepped up, scoring a season-high 14 points and pulling down 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
“It was big,” Scott said. “That put the lead back up to eight. When you make a comeback like that, it takes so much out of you. We had a little bit more juice left in us and we were able to get the lead back into double digits.”
The victory was Cleveland’s first against Milwaukee since Nov. 24, 2010, when Mo Williams hit a 22-footer over Brandon Jennings at the buzzer for an 83-81 victory in Cleveland.
“Nope,” Scott said when asked if he remembered that game. “It seems so long ago.”
For the Bucks, the loss Saturday was a lost opportunity. After rallying to beat the Celtics in Boston on Friday night, Milwaukee had a chance to pull even with Chicago — a 92-75 loser at Atlanta earlier Saturday — atop the Central Division.
But the Bucks came out flat from the start, shooting just 33 percent in the first quarter and 39 percent overall while making just 4 of 20 3-point attempts and turning the ball over 14 times for 22 Cleveland points.
“Right from the jump ball, we looked really fatigued,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “We shot a couple of layups three feet over the rim, shot air balls. We were right and left, short and long. Monta had a lot of pop. We tried all kinds of different combinations, but we couldn’t find anything to get ourselves going.”
Aside from Monta Ellis, who scored a season-high 37 points on 15-of-27 shooting, the Bucks’ offensive attack was silent as no other player scored got more than nine points.
“We made a run, but we never could get back enough to change the momentum of the game,” Ellis said. “The beat us up on the offensive boards, and they made shots. We just didn’t play our game tonight.”
Up 46-37 at halftime, the Cavaliers stretched the lead to 20 points with a 15-3 run, capped off by an Irving layup that made it 67-47 with 4:01 left in the quarter. Milwaukee countered with a 12-2 run of its own and got within 10 on a Mike Dunleavy jumper with 1:44 left in the third.
Ellis hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 22 seconds left to bring Milwaukee within six, but Irving’s layup at the buzzer gave Cleveland a 71-63 through the third period.
The Cavaliers opened the fourth quarter on a 9-1 run and Milwaukee never got closer than 10 points.
NOTES: Ellis has scored 30 or more points four times this season. His 37 points were the most by a Bucks player in one game this season. … Tyler Zeller’s 11 points and 10 rebounds marked his second career double-double. … Varejao missed his third consecutive game because of a right knee contusion and did not travel to Milwaukee. Zeller started in place of Varejao. … Tobias Harris was inactive for Milwaukee because of a right elbow laceration. … In his four previous games against the Bucks, Irving had scored 27.5 points per game. … Cleveland’s last victory in Milwaukee was in December 2009. … Larry Sanders had five blocks, the sixth time this season he has had at least five. … Cleveland had lost 11 of its last 12.