The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship last spring but somehow seem to be getting better this season as they learn to feed the hot hand on the offensive end. The Cavaliers will try to identify the torrid scorer early and post their fifth straight win when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Cleveland fed Kevin Love during his 34-point first quarter on Wednesday and continued to find the hot hand through the weekend, finishing with a big fourth quarter from Kyrie Irving in Sunday’s 112-108 win at Philadelphia. ”We’re just playing out games – taking what’s there for us and playing off of each other well,“ Love told reporters. ”We’re doing what we’re supposed to do – helping carry this team and getting other guys rolling. At some point, we’re going to be clicking on all cylinders, we feel like we’re trying to hold up our end of the bargain as best we can.” The Bucks won for the second time in three games on Sunday, 104-96 at Orlando, and are starting to get strong bench play from rookie guard Malcolm Brogdan, who scored 12 points against the Magic. “You look at what Malcolm has done for us all season - he’s been off the charts,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd told reporters.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (13-2): The Cleveland offense is usually set into motion by superstar forward LeBron James, and he dropped his 45th career triple-double on the 76ers on Sunday with 26 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. James is averaging 12.3 assists in the last three games and is up to 23.6 points, 9.7 assists and 8.4 rebounds on the season - numbers surpassed in the triple-double categories only by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. The 31-year-old owns a career-best plus-minus of plus-12.2 this season, and the Cavaliers keep outscoring opponents.
ABOUT THE BUCKS (7-8): Milwaukee has a player like James in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who leads the team in scoring (22 points) and rebounding (8.3) while ranking second in assists (six). The 21-year-old went 7-of-11 from the floor en route to 18 points in a 104-96 win over Orlando on Sunday while John Henson entered the starting lineup, delivered 20 points and matched Antetokounmpo with a team-high three blocks. Henson did not even get off the bench in Friday’s home loss to Toronto as Kidd gave Miles Plumlee and Greg Monroe chances to establish themselves in the center spot.
1. Cavaliers G J.R. Smith is 1-of-22 from the field in the last two games, including 1-of-17 from beyond the arc.
2. Bucks SF Jabari Parker, who made a total of 13 3-pointers in his first two seasons, is up to 17 in 2016-17.
3. Cleveland dropped a 108-105 decision at Milwaukee on Nov. 14, 2015, but took the final three meetings in the 2015-16 season series.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 106, Bucks 97