Cavaliers 106, Bucks 97
CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James has helped make the Cavaliers’ transformation from worst in the league to playoff contender a quick one.
James had 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 29 points, and Cleveland beat the Milwaukee Bucks 106-97 Saturday night to put them in a three-way tie with Boston and Miami for the final two playoff spots in the East.
The win came one night after a close win at New Orleans and gave the Cavaliers their third sweep of back-to-back games this season.
“It shows how much we’ve grown to be able to play such an emotional game last night … and come back here and play another really good team and beat them, too,” Carlos Boozer said.
Boozer had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jeff McInnis had a season-high 12 assists for the Cavaliers, who won their third straight.
“It’s just all about us coming together,” James said. “We’re coming together. We’re putting four quarters together in one game.”
James also had four steals to go with another array of jaw-dropping dunks.
The Cavaliers led almost the entire way, but the Bucks climbed back into it late in the third quarter behind Redd and Toni Kukoc.
Skinner had a three-point play with 9:37 left to give the Bucks an 83-81 lead, their first since 1:10 into the game.
Cleveland responded with a 6-0 run behind strong play from James and Ilgauskas, who blocked five shots.
The Cavaliers kept the Bucks from finding a rhythm and held them to their lowest point total since the All-Star break.
“They played the night before and they were still more aggressive than we were,” Bucks coach Terry Porter said. “They came out more focused and maybe with more of a sense of urgency.”
James’ top highlight came in the third quarter when he fully extended to reach a high alley-oop pass from McInnis, then slammed it home with his right hand. James got in Jones’ face for a moment after the play and was called for a technical.
“I wanted to see him really get up and jump,” McInnis said. “He’s amazing.”
James had three steals in the first quarter, including one that he turned into a two-handed slam and energized the sold-out crowd.
The Cavaliers led 39-28 at the end of the first period. It was their highest-scoring quarter of the season, topping the 38 they had in the second quarter Jan. 6 against New York.
“We’re letting teams come out and take the first punch against us,” Keith Van Horn said. “You can’t do that, especially teams that are fighting for playoff position.”
Ilgauskas had 15 points in the quarter as Cleveland worked the ball inside and scored 24 points in the paint.
Both teams played poorly in a sloppy second quarter, combining for 14 turnovers. But the Cavaliers kept shooting well—59 percent in the first half— and took a 61-52 halftime lead.
The Cavaliers are 7-3 since the All-Star break. … They had lost five straight to the Bucks. … Jeff McInnis has 67 assists to eight turnovers in the last seven games. … The loss dropped Milwaukee into a tie with NewOrleans for the fourth playoff spot.