Bucks-Cavaliers Preview

The Associated Press

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't have Kyrie Irving in their latest game, but backup Ramon Sessions' performance in his absence showed the team has more than one capable floor leader.

They hope Sessions can turn in similar efforts in the next two games, starting Friday night.

A concussion will sideline Irving for two more contests, so the Cavs could use another big game out of Sessions when they face the Milwaukee Bucks and struggling Brandon Jennings, who has more trouble at Quicken Loans Arena that any opposing venue.

Irving has quickly become the Cavaliers' leader, averaging 18.0 points to lead all rookies while ranking second with 5.1 assists per game and 49.2 percent shooting.

His emergence has meant fewer minutes for Sessions, who averaged 15.8 points over the second half of the 2010-11 season but came into Wednesday's visit from the Los Angeles Clippers scoring 9.0 per game and shooting 33.5 percent.

Pressed into a starting role when the team found out Irving would sit with a concussion sustained Tuesday, Sessions responded with season highs of 24 points and 13 assists, outplaying Chris Paul and leading the Cavaliers (10-14) to a 99-92 victory.

"It's not my first rodeo," said Sessions, who spent his first two seasons in Milwaukee. "I was ready to go when they called my name."

That's good for the Cavs as they take a now-required cautious approach with Irving, who was evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday. The team is following the NBA's new guidelines on concussions, which requires a player to complete a series of steps to be cleared for competition.

''He's getting better but we are going through NBA protocol,'' coach Byron Scott said. "He'll be out tonight and tomorrow and we'll go from there. He's making improvement but we're not going to risk putting him out there until the doctors say he's fine.''

Having Irving on the court would have created a matchup of two of the league's top young point guards, but Jennings - Milwaukee's leading scorer - hasn't done much lately to live up to that reputation.

After averaging 23.7 points and 5.9 assists as the Bucks (11-14) won six of 10 from Jan. 17-Feb. 3, he has averaged 7.3 points and shot 30.8 percent (8 for 26) over the past three games.

He shot 3 of 12 in Toronto on Wednesday, but Carlos Delfino stepped up with a season-high 25 points to lift Milwaukee to a 105-99 win. It was the Bucks' fourth win in six road games after starting 0-8.

"We haven't been the best on the road this year,' said former Cavalier Drew Gooden, who had his third straight 20-point game. "But we're steadily trying to creep up and get back to the .500 mark and we need road wins to do that."

Milwaukee won three of four in last season's series, including just its second victory in 16 road games against the Cavaliers.

Jennings sat out that 102-88 win Jan. 21 with a broken foot, but he probably didn't miss taking the floor in Cleveland. He's lost all three games he has played at Quicken Loans Arena, averaging 8.7 points and shooting 20.0 percent (8 for 40) - easily his worst mark in any venue.

While Irving has gotten much of the credit for the Cavaliers' early competitiveness, Anderson Varejao's contributions have been perhaps just as critical. Second in the East with 11.8 rebounds per game, Varejao has averaged 15.0 points and 14.8 boards over his last five games.

That could spell trouble for the Bucks, who have been outrebounded by 4.9 per game since Andrew Bogut went down. The only game Varejao played during last season's series was the Cavaliers' lone victory.

Cleveland is 8-0 at home against Milwaukee with Varejao in the lineup.

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