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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers vs. Bucks

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Deer Stand

The Wine & Gold wrap up their three-game mini-homestand – and get a well-earned three-day break when they do – welcoming the World Champs to town for a Central Division showdown on Wednesday night.

As unlikely as it might’ve seemed before the season started, as we approach the 50-game mark, the Cavaliers find themselves mere percentage points behind the NBA Champs – with a chance to move ahead of them with a win on Wednesday.

Milwaukee is coming off a perfect three-game homestand – the final win coming without Giannis Antetokounmpo – as the Wine & Gold try to complete a trifecta of their own. Cleveland would also like to extend the Bucks’ road skein to four.

On Monday night, the Cavaliers improved to 9-2 in their last 11 games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and 9-3 in the month of January – dropping the Knicks for the second time this season.

In the victory, Cleveland jumped out to a 15-point second-half lead, propelled by Kevin Love’s three-point eruption in the third quarter. New York climbed all the way back to tie the game with 2:28 to play. But Darius Garland’s monster triple in front of the Knicks bench with 1:23 to go and a late Even Mobley free throw iced the win.

With the 95-93 decision, the Cavs moved 10 games above .500 for the first time since the 2017-18 season and held their 19th opponent under the century mark – continuing their run as the East’s top scoring defense.

The Bucks are in the middle of the pack in points allowed in the East, but only the Hornets score more points – already having posted 14 games of 120-plus points this season, including 133 in a home barnburner against Sacramento on Saturday night.

Milwaukee got that 133-127 win despite not having the Greek Freak available, sitting out with right knee soreness. The two-time MVP’s status is still questionable for Wednesday night’s matchup in Cleveland.

With Giannis out on Saturday, Khris Middleton went for a season-best 34 points and Jrue Holiday pitched in with 26 of his own.

The Wine & Gold wrap up the month of January with a back-to-back beginning with a Sunday night matchup in Motown followed by a return to Cleveland for a Monday night meeting with the Pelicans. The Cavs begin February with two straight on the road – traveling to Houston and Charlotte.


History

These two teams have split the season series so far – both back in December and both in Milwaukee – with the Bucks taking the first meeting in a tight matchup with both teams at full strength on the 6th, and Cleveland blowing them out in a rematch between a pair of shorthanded teams two weeks later. In the Cavs victory, snapping an eight-game run by the World Champs, J.B. Bickerstaff got 60 combined points from his second unit.

Milwaukee leads the overall regular season series, 128-95, and is one of three Eastern Conference franchises to have never faced the Wine & Gold in the postseason.

The all-time single-game scoring leader for the Cavs is LeBron James, who exploded for 55 points in a Cleveland victory in 2009. The Bucks’ leading man is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who went off for 53 points twice in a pair of Milwaukee wins – one in 1972 and the other on Nov. 4, 1970, in the first-ever meeting between these two teams.


Connections

Rodney Hood – who arrived from Utah in a four-team Deadline deal in 2018 and played 66 games with the Cavs in parts of two seasons – has come off the bench all season for the Bucks, including a scoreless appearance in 12 minutes against Cleveland on December 6.

George Hill – who arrived from Sacramento in the same deal – has started each of the last four games for the Bucks, netting double-figures in two of them. In his lone meeting against the Cavs this year, also as a starter, Hill finished with 14 points.

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