Unselfishness and ball movement from the Cavaliers kept the length and athleticism of the Bucks at bay, as Cleveland defeated Milwaukee 115-100 at home, less than a week after losing to them in double overtime on the road. LeBron James led the way with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, with Kevin Love not far behind with 22 points and 15 rebounds. The Bucks spent the entire evening trying to play catch up, and they fought hard — even though they struggled to close the last ten points of the gap.
The Cavs looked like a balanced and smooth team, leading 28-23 after the first quarter and then pulling away to 63-48 at half, with Kevin Love dropping 17 points and pulling down 7 rebounds after the 2nd quarter. The whole team looked sharp and in rhythm during the first half — Delly had 9 assists (he finished the game with a career high 13), Tristan impacted the game in his signature gritty ways, LeBron swayed in and out of the spotlight, contributing 11 points, 6 rebounds and five assists, in a quasi-quiet way, as only he can. Most importantly, they looked like they were on the same page — they moved the ball well, made the extra pass and each did just enough individually to help the machine thrive.
The Bucks brought it to within 7, as the third quarter finished at 86-79. The Cavs played the second half without Timofey Mozgov, who was ruled out at halftime, because of a shoulder injury. Mozgov hasn’t looked like himself this season, coming off of knee surgery, and this latest addition to the situation may not be an enormous problem, but it’s still not a promising development. While Tristan started the second half in his place, Anderson Varejao saw significant minutes, as well, but he’s just not able to contribute like he used to, although he played alright, hitting a few mid-range jumpers. The center position will probably be an ongoing point of interest as the season progresses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up moving Andy in a trade when the deadline closes in, after other teams start to fall behind in the pack and begin to set their focus on next year.
Jabari Parker (14 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33 points) of the Bucks played tough in the second half, using their length and raw athleticism to get to the rim, but the Cavs didn’t let them cover much ground, frustrating them on both ends. Everything didn’t always look pretty, but the Cavs looked fluid and in control and that went a long way in terms of not letting the margin fluctuate all that much. It wasn’t necessarily a flashy game for any individual player for an elongated period of time, but everyone played hard and did what need to be done. And there’s really not much more than you can ask from a team during the regular season than that.