Bucking up in the nick of time

Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade defending against Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on Tuesday. The latter led his team with 27 points as they beat the Cavs for the first time this season.
Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade defending against Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on Tuesday. The latter led his team with 27 points as they beat the Cavs for the first time this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Milwaukee give up big lead late in game before charging back to edge out Cleveland

MILWAUKEE (Wisconsin) • Flashing a flair for the dramatic on Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks built a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers, watched it disappear in the blink of an eye, then rallied over the final minute for a 119-116 victory over the defending Eastern Conference champions at Bradley Centre.

"It's big," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said, after the National Basketball Association (NBA) win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bucks.

"That's a big step for our team. It showed a lot of maturity. Usually, in a situation like that, we give away the game, but I think we did a great job staying in the game, believing in ourselves and staying together."

Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee (16-13) with 27 points and added 14 rebounds and eight assists. But, like the rest of the Bucks' starting five, he was on the bench for much of the fourth quarter as the Cavs stormed back with a 24-2 run.

They took a 107-105 lead after Dwyane Wade hit back-to-back three-pointers with 5min 11sec to play. The Bucks' drought continued until Malcolm Brogdon snapped a six-minute scoring drought with 3:38 left.

LeBron James, who was not on the court for most of Cleveland's surge, returned to the floor at that point and ripped off six straight points to put the Cavaliers (23-9) back up a point with 2:04 left.

"Those guys were just playing off each other," said James, who knocked down six three-pointers and finished with 39 points.

"Wade hit a couple of big shots. He was running and orchestrating the offence.

WINNING FOR ONCE

Usually, in a situation like that, we give away the game.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Bucks forward, on his side displaying a growing maturity against the Cavaliers.

NOT INVINCIBLE

You're not going to do everything perfect.

DWYANE WADE, Cavs guard, on his side's first loss to the Bucks in six games.

"We were just defending and getting stops and they helped us get back into the game."

Just like that, though, the Cavs' luck ran out. They missed their next four baskets and fell behind by five before James' final three-pointer made it 118-116 with 2.1 seconds to play.

Milwaukee earned their first victory of the season over the Cavaliers, who had won the last five meetings, including a 124-119 decision on Nov 7.

And it was third time lucky for Antetokounmpo, who finally got the better of Cleveland.

The Greek amazingly averaged 37 points per game on 72 per cent shooting in two games against the Cavs this season.

On Tuesday, however, he shot only 57 per cent for his 27 points. He was helped by Eric Bledsoe, who scored 26 points and added five rebounds and a pair of steals in 32 minutes for the Bucks.

Cleveland had won five straight and 18 of 19 before falling to the Bucks. "Every night is not going to be a great night," Wade said.

"You're not going to do everything perfect, but all we try to do is be resilient, stick with our game and give ourselves a chance to win.

"We gave ourselves a chance tonight; we just didn't do it."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Bucking up in the nick of time'. Print Edition | Subscribe