Bucks hold off Irving, Cavaliers

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- With injuries forcing some of their best talent to the bench, the Milwaukee Bucks found a way to put forth one of their best offensive performances in recent memory in a 109-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Guard O.J. Mayo scored a season-high 28 points as Milwaukee shot 50 percent (36 of 72) from the field, made 13 of 23 3-pointers and converted 24 of 26 free-throw attempts. But the Bucks still had to overcome a furious comeback by the Cavaliers.

The Bucks led by 13 when Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving scored on a layup and converted the free throw for a three-point play to make it 98-88 with 4:56 left. Milwaukee went back up by 12 but Irving hit a 3-pointer and long jumper on back-to-back possessions, cutting the lead to 103-96.

After a Bucks turnover, Irving went to the line and hit two more free throws and followed Milwaukee guard Gary Neal's missed jumper with another 3-pointer before guard C.J. Miles put Cleveland ahead on a 3-pointer with one minute on the clock.

Bucks guard Caron Butler finally ended Milwaukee's scoring drought with 24 seconds left and, after Irving lost the ball out of bounds, Mayo hit a pair of free throws to put the Bucks ahead by three with 13 seconds to play.

"This is how it's going to be," Butler said. "We're going to have to grind every game out like this, and I thought we did a great job of collectively staying together and everyone having their fingerprints on this ballgame."

Neal scored 23 off the bench, center Zaza Pachulia and forward John Henson each added 14 and Butler finished with 10.

"We had some big nights from a number of guys," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "O.J. played really big on both ends of the floor. He took the challenge defensively. Gary Neal came off the bench and gave us a big life. Both Zaza and John played well down low."

With point guards Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour still recovering from injuries, rookie point guard Nate Wolters finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes -- matched up primarily against Irving.

"He (Wolters) didn't have a turnover," Drew said. "He played a very, very solid game. Having to defend a guy like Kyrie, he took the challenge."

Irving scored 13 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth, all of them coming with under five minutes to play.

"Crucial turnover by me at the end and it kind of stopped (the comeback)," Irving said. "A missed shot by me as well. It starts on the defensive end early in the game. We've just got to get stops early so we're not in that predicament going into the fourth quarter."

His 10-of-20 performance from the field paced a Cleveland offense that shot 45 percent and made 12 of 28 3-pointers -- four of them from Irving.

He was one of four Cavaliers (2-3) to score in double figures, joined by 21 points from guard Dion Waiters, Miles' 14 and a 12-point effort by center Anderson Varejao.

"You have to give the Bucks credit," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "They were shorthanded and did what they had to do to get a home win.

"I don't know where we were mentally. I don't know where we were physically. Milwaukee just came out to start the game and just did what they wanted to do. We are going to have trouble winning like that on the road."

Cleveland plays three of its next four on the road.

NOTES: Milwaukee center Larry Sanders reportedly was involved in an incident late Saturday night at a Milwaukee nightclub. The team said Sanders was cooperating with authorities. He did not play Wednesday due to a thumb injury, according to coach Larry Drew. ... Cleveland assistant coach Jim Boylan returned to Milwaukee, where he led the Bucks to a 22-28 record after replacing coach Scott Skiles last January. ... Former Bucks guard Michael Redd announced his retirement between the first and second quarters. A second-round draft pick in 2000, Redd played 11 of his 12 seasons in Milwaukee and remains among the franchise's best in several offensive categories. Redd also won an Olympic gold medal in 2008. ... Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has scored at least 26 points in six of his seven career games against the Bucks. ... Bucks Center Zaza Pachulia made all 10 of his free-throw attempts Wednesday and is 21-for-21 this season.
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