The Cleveland Cavaliers are at it again tonight as they put the finishing touches on their double-header with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs ran neck-and-neck with the Deer for the better part of three quarters last night, but the Bucks are second in the East for a reason, and they proved it as they pulled away late in the game. Tonight offers a chance for the young Cavaliers to bounce back on no rest against one of the NBA’s foremost contenders.
How to watch:
Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go and NBA League Pass.
Andre Drummond came out with a bit more pep in his step than he did in Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (in which he returned to the lineup after missing a game and was a team-worst minus-33). But even a rejuvenated Drummond still frequently launches ill-fated solo expeditions in which he grinds the offense to a halt only to burp up a missed layup. Jarrett Allen has already proven a better fit for the Cavs, but a lineup change doesn’t appear imminent. For better or worse, Drummond is entrenched in Cleveland’s starting five—as long as he’s still in Cleveland, anyway.
Elsewhere, Larry Nance Jr. is still nursing the wrist sprain he suffered against the Celtics. Larry did return to action for two games in the wake of the injury, but struggled (4 points on 2-of-12 shooting) before returning to the injury report. Taurean Prince has started the last few games in his place and will likely get the nod again should Nance Jr. remain out.
Cavs: Darius Garland/Collin Sexton/Isaac Okoro/Taurean Prince/Andre Drummond
Bucks: Jrue Holiday/Donte DiVincenzo/Khris Middleton/Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brook Lopez
Things to watch for:
Holding the line: If I’ve learned anything from the God of War series, it’s that Greek gods are a vengeful bunch. In that way, Giannis Antetokounmpo put on an admirable Zeus impression last night. After recording the same number of offensive fouls as first-quarter points (two), Giannis spent the rest of the evening lashing furious bolts of lightning on the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse floor before calling it a night with 33 points, 12 boards, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. There’s little to be done when the reigning MVP turns his sliders to god-mode, but if the Cavs are going to salvage a split, they’ll have to do a better job of walling off the paint and forcing Giannis to shoot.
He who guards the guards: Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have been vibing in February. The Cavs’ starting backcourt combined for 47.5 points per game in their first two outings of the month. But they hadn’t faced a defender like Jrue Holiday, who’s made a career (and a pair of All-Defense teams) out of swallowing up guards and throwing them into the abyss. It wasn’t all Holiday, of course — he can (allegedly) only guard one at a time — but it doesn’t feel coincidental that SexLand only managed 32 points between them. They did combine for eight assists, but with the Cavs largely devoid of other scoring threats, it’s crucial that one or both of the young guards shake loose and pile up some more points.
Identity crisis! Did the Cavs and Bucks secretly sign Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis? Because last night’s game sure felt like watching Freaky Friday. The Bucks came into the game fresh off giving the Indiana Pacers 21 threes on Wednesday, 16!!!!! more than the Cavs made against the Los Angeles Clippers the same night. Naturally, the Cavs outscored the Bucks 24–6 from distance in the first half, with everyone from Isaac Okoro to Jarrett Allen getting in on the action. Unfortunately for the Cavs, this game ended like the movie, with all parties reverting to their previous selves; the Bucks knocked down four fourth-quarter triples to the Cavs’ one to put things on ice. Here’s hoping tonight’s sequel stays faithful to the original but goes with a new, fresh ending.