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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers vs. Bucks

Regular Season Wrap

It’s hard to believe we’re here, but Sunday afternoon’s matchup with Milwaukee marks the end of the regular season. But it’s not the end of the Cavaliers season – with the particulars of the Play-In Tournament at stake in Cleveland and around the NBA.

The Wine & Gold (43-38) have dropped two straight – including a Friday night decision in Brooklyn – but still control their own fate and can reach the 7-8 Game on Tuesday night against those same Nets with a win on Sunday.

On Friday night in Brooklyn, the Cavaliers fell behind by 17 points late in the first quarter, rallied back to take a seven-point edge late in the third quarter, but couldn’t withstand the Nets fourth-quarter blitz. Kevin Durant led everyone with 36 points and both Andre Drummond and Bruce Brown doubled-up as Brooklyn took the four-game season series.

The brightest spot from Friday night came with Evan Mobley’s return from a five-game absence with an ankle injury. The Rookie of the Year candidate went on to finish with 17 points, seven boards, three assists, two steals and a pair of blocks in 34 minutes of work.

Darius Garland led the Cavs with 31 points – going 12-for-24 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range and 4-of-4 from the stripe and Lauri Markkanen pitched in with 17 points.

Caris LeVert pitched in with 16 points, adding four boards, four assists and a block while Kevin Love came off the bench to tally 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

The Bucks are coming off a 30-point drubbing of the Pistons – holding Detroit to eight points in the first period and scoring 41 of their own in the fourth. The Friday night victory was the World Champ’s third straight and fifth in its last seven as the Bucks gear up for an expectant run late in the postseason.

In other games this afternoon among the teams in the Play-In Tourney – all at 3:30 p.m. – Atlanta travels to Houston, Charlotte hosts Washington and the Nets welcome the Pacers.

History

After dropping the first head-to-head decision this year, the Wine & Gold took the next two by an average of 22.5 points per. In the most recent meeting, the Cavaliers outscored Milwaukee by 17 points in the second period and cruised home after intermission in a late January victory that got Cleveland to within a game-and-a-half of the East’s top spot.

The Bucks lead the all-time regular season series, 128-96, and are one of just three Eastern Conference franchises that the Cavaliers have never met in the postseason – although that could change depending on how Sunday afternoon and the ensuing week shake out.

The all-time single-game scoring leader for the Cavaliers is LeBron James, who went off for 55 points in a Cavs win in Milwaukee back in 2009. Not to be outdone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went off for 53 points twice, including November 4, 1970 – the first ever meeting between these two teams.

Connections

Bucks guard George Hill arrived in a Deadline deal back in 2018 and started 15 games during that year’s Playoff run – the last time the Cavs reached the postseason. He was dealt to Milwaukee the following December in a three-team trade that, in part, returned Matthew Dellavedova to Cleveland.