Cavaliers 95, Bucks 86

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—LeBron James’ final assist of the night was in the locker room, shooing the horde of reporters toward Drew Gooden first.

With James struggling, Gooden scored a season-high 31 points and matched a season high with 16 rebounds to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a come-from-behind 95-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

“Opportunity came, and I came through,” Gooden said.

Milwaukee’s longest home winning streak in more than two seasons was snapped at seven, and Cleveland coach Mike Brown smashed a clipboard in the process of firing up his team during the Cavs’ final push in the fourth quarter.

“I’m just glad I didn’t put anybody’s eye out,” Brown said. “We’ll just leave it at that.”

The game featured a matchup of two of the NBA’s most potent scorers in James and Michael Redd. But James, who came in averaging 30.8 points in 12 games against the Bucks, was shut down, managing only eight points.

It was the eighth time in James’ 270 career games that he failed to score 10 points, and his lowest output since a career-worst three points on Dec. 29, 2004, in a loss to Houston. James was 3-of-13 with nine assists and five rebounds.

“Out of my 13 shots … probably 11 of them was good shots,” James said. “I mean, 13 shots for me, and a win. Eight points, but we got a win. Anytime my teammates pick it up for me like that it’s great to see.”

Trailing the entire second half, Cleveland tied the game at 82 on a dunk by Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 4:23 left, and the Cavs took the lead on Larry Hughes’ 16-footer. Eric Snow’s 18-foot jumper gave Cleveland an 86-82 lead with just under 3 minutes left.

During the ensuing timeout, Brown smashed a clipboard and cut his hand excitedly pumping up the defense.

“I didn’t think he was that strong. I thought it was some trick clipboard they keep in a locker for him for times like that,” Gooden said. “That showed his will to win. That kind of fired us up. It was a good tactic.”

Redd, who finished with 26 points, hit a free throw to make it 86-83, but Gooden, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter, answered on the other end with an easy basket. He added two more free throws to put Cleveland up 90-83 with 1:32 left.

Hughes scored 22 points and Ilgauskas added 11 for Cleveland.

Andrew Bogut scored 16 points, Ruben Patterson 13 and Mo Williams 11 for the Bucks, who went 3-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter and 1-of-9 in the final 6:41.

“It didn’t look pretty,” Williams said. “One, shots didn’t fall. Two, we didn’t execute well. Three, we just didn’t have the energy the whole game.”

The Bucks led most of the second half, and when Redd picked up a loose ball and hit an off-balance 3-pointer with Hughes in his face it gave Milwaukee its biggest lead of the night to that point, 57-50. But the Bucks couldn’t pull away, leading 74-68 at the end of the third.

James scored the last points of the second quarter on a 14-foot jumper from the baseline as Milwaukee took a 51-48 lead at halftime. That was it for James for 16 1/2 minutes as the Bucks made it a point to stop him from exploiting them on the pick-and-roll, and often extended the defense out past 30 feet in an effort to get James to give up the ball.

When James faced the smaller Charlie Bell he was immediately double-teamed, and Patterson pressed him out past the 3-point arc on the other possessions.

“I’m proud of LeBron James because they jumped him the whole night and he struggled a little bit offensively,” Brown said. “But he hung in there and did other things to help us win the ballgame.”

James finally scored with 7:28 left in the game to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 79-74, but Brian Skinner answered on the other end to push the lead back to three possessions. That would be the Bucks’ last highlight as Cleveland won its fifth straight against the Bucks.

Notes

James’ 83-foot shot to end the third quarter against Boston on Wednesday night ranked as the third-longest in league history, behind Baron Davis (89 feet in 2001) and Norm Van Leer (84 feet in 1977). James, who appears in a commercial that’s been digitally altered to show him hitting shots from the opposite baseline, joked about the make in reality. “There were more people in the stands, so I had to put a little bit more up on it,” James said. He said he thinks it was the longest shot he’s ever hit. … Gooden’s career high of 33 points also came against Milwaukee last year. … Bucks F Charlie Villanueva (right shoulder tendinitis) missed his second game and will be re-evaluated before the team’s next game Monday at Denver. … Cavs F Donyell Marshall returned after missing a game because he hurt his neck on Tuesday. He played 9 1/2 minutes.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Cleveland
D. Gooden D. Gooden
13-20,  31 Pts
16 Rebs, 2 Assists
 Milwaukee
A. Bogut A. Bogut
5-5,  16 Pts
10 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Friday, Jan 5