After again being victimized by Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to avoid a third straight loss when they take on a Milwaukee Bucks team bolstered by the return of Michael Redd and Joe Smith.
The Cavs led the 76ers by 14 midway through the first half at home Saturday, but Iverson had 34 points and nine assists in his return to the lineup to power Philadelphia to a 100-95 victory.
Iverson, who had missed four games due to ankle problems, added five rebounds, four steals and made all 14 free throws in 46 minutes. He came into the contest averaging 32.1 points in 14 games in Cleveland.
“It wasn’t a good effort by us,” said LeBron James, who scored 31 points. “I guess we were getting ready for the Super Bowl instead of worrying about the Sixers.”
James and the Cavs have struggled to find consistency of late, winning seven straight before dropping their last two. The seven-game win streak was preceded by six consecutive losses.
The Cavaliers shot 6-of-23 from 3-point range Saturday, had only 24 free throws and turned the ball over 19 times.
“We still are not going to get down on ourselves,” James said. “We still have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. We are eight games over .500. We climbed back from being only three games over .500 a week ago. We just have to regroup and get ready for Milwaukee.”
The Bucks stopped a two-game losing streak by defeating struggling Memphis 88-78 on Saturday. Jamaal Magloire had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrew Bogut added 12 points and 10 boards for Milwaukee, which outscored the Grizzlies 22-14 in the fourth quarter.
The win followed consecutive road losses to New Orleans and Houston that came by a combined three points.
“For us to come back home from a tough road trip and get this win, I think is pretty big for us,” Smith said.
The return of Smith and Redd should also be pretty big for the Bucks. Smith played for the first time since undergoing knee surgery Dec. 6, entering the game with 5:54 left in the first quarter and immediately blocking a shot by Pau Gasol. Smith also had three points and five rebounds.
Redd, who missed one game with back spasms, shot only 7-of-18 from the field but finished with 23 points. The All-Star guard has averaged 20.5 points in 19 games against the Cavs and had 32 points in the last meeting.
Milwaukee is looking for a split of the four-game season series. Cleveland won both matchups in January.