No players? No problem.
With starting big men Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova joining point guards Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour on the sidelines, O.J. Mayo scored 28 points and Gary Neal added 23 to help the Milwaukee Bucks hold onto a 109-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Wednesday night.
Returning to the starting lineup, Mayo shot 9-19 from the field and 6-7 from behind the three-point line, while Neal added 23 points on 15 shots including 4/5 from deep. The Bucks moved the ball well and recorded 25 assists on 36 made shots with Zaza Pachulia (7) and Nate Wolters (6) leading the way. Starting in place of Sanders, Pachulia was a perfect 10-10 at the free-throw line and finished with 14 points, while Wolters turned in another solid all-around performance in his second start, adding 9 points and 8 rebounds without committing a single turnover.
While Ilyasova continues to deal with a lingering ankle injury that cost him most of the preseason, Sanders is reportedly dealing with a thumb injury. But Sanders' absence may have also been related to a reported police investigation into an incident at a Milwaukee nightclub last weekend. Their absences meant extended minutes for the reserve combo of Pachulia and John Henson, who also joined the starting lineup and responded with 14 points while missing only 2 shots from the floor, grabbing 9 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots.
The Cavaliers were led by 29 points from Kyrie Irving, who scorched Milwaukee with deep threes and flashy drives. After a Gary Neal three-point jumper gave Milwaukee a 103-91 lead with three minutes remaining, Irving almost single-handedly dragged the Cavs back from the brink, scoring 10 straight point before dishing an assist (his 8th) to C.J. Miles for a go-ahead three.
Both teams then traded misses, as Neal was off on a short jumper and Kyrie bricked a well-defended layup. Mayo found some space just outside the paint for a pull-up jumper that didn't fall, but Caron Butler crashed from the right corner for the go-ahead tip-in. With just over 24 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers then ran a flat 1-4 pick and roll for Irving, who appeared to have a narrow alley to the basket but dribbled the ball off his foot instead. Mayo hit a pair of free throws, then sealed the game by smothering Irving on a three-point attempt before hitting two more at the stripe to ice the game.
The Cavaliers played a clean game (just 9 turnovers) but couldn't overcome Milwaukee's hot shooting. The Bucks were 13-23 from behind the arc and also hit 24 of 26 free throws. Dion Waiters had 21 for the Cavs on 7-13 shooting, but missed 5 of his 11 free throws.