The King Holds Court: Cavs – 111 Bucks – 108

Milwaukee Bucks 108 FinalRecap | Box Score 111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Jabari Parker, SF 38 MIN | 11-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 22 PTS | -13

After firing an airball on his first field goal attempt, Parker locked in and had the best offensive performance of his young career. His off-the-ball movement was timely as ever, once again proving he doesn’t need to dominate the ball to score. Defensively, he did a reasonably solid job against a tough matchup in Kevin Love, and though Love went off in the first half, most of his damage seemed to come on tough, well-defended looks. Parker did have a few lapses, though, most notably surrendering an easy tip-in to Love at the end of the first half, a mistake he immediately admitted to Telly in a pre-halftime interview. Overall, Parker was easily the Bucks’ most impressive performer, and if there were any lingering questions about his athleticism, they were more than answered.

Larry Sanders, C 23 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4

Sanders had another very Sanders-y game, scoring a few points, grabbing a handful of rebounds and making a number of defensive plays that won’t show up in the box score. He missed a few bunnies, which is never not frustrating to watch, and picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter. Sanders also earned his first technical of the season for firing the ball into the stanchion out of frustration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.

Brandon Knight, PG 37 MIN | 10-18 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | -8

I’m comfortable saying this was the best I’ve seen Knight play this season. He was decisive and under control all night, didn’t force contested drives, made the extra pass and knocked down open shots. It was a beauty of a performance to watch, especially after Saturday’s uninspiring effort. Defensively, he and the rest of Milwaukee’s guards struggled to defend Kyrie, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.

O.J. Mayo, SG 26 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -6

Mayo had a couple defensive gaffes – most notably, falling asleep on a Shawn Marion backcut – but he was aggressive offensively and used his body well to get to the rim. He also continues to be a vastly improved passer. Like, suspiciously improved. And that’s been a huge asset for a team lacking a “true” point guard, especially considering Mayo is 0 for his last 12 from beyond the arc.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 25 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -6

It was clear from the opening tip that Giannis relished the opportunity to match up with LeBron. He attempted four shots in the first four minutes, connecting on two, including a blow-by, left-handed dunk. His aggression seemed to taper off a bit as the game went on and, to the Cavs’ credit, they defended his length and athleticism well. James forced Giannis into a gyrostep travel on the break, and noted defensive assassin Mike Miller stuffed a long-step, hanging layup at the rim in the fourth quarter. Still, it was an above-average night for Giannis, and the four assists were his second-highest total of the season. He also had a few solid defensive possessions when switched onto Kevin Love.

Khris Middleton, PF 18 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +5

Though he continued to struggle with his jumper, Middleton moved the ball well and played excellent defense on Dion Waiters when they were matched up in the second quarter.

Ersan Ilyasova, PF 12 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +9

Ilyasova entered the game to start the second quarter and almost immediately knocked down a three-pointer. Though he missed his next two attempts, he was active on both ends before taking an inadvertent shot to the nose from Tristan Thompson late in the half. Ersan did not return for the second half, and Fox Sports Wisconsin’s Andrew Gruman tweeted after the game that Ilyasova was admitted to a Cleveland hospital and will remain there overnight. #FreeErsan

Zaza Pachulia, C 25 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +2

As has become the norm, Pachulia split minutes nearly evenly with Sanders, entering the game at the six-minute mark of the first quarter. He provided his usual energy on the glass but had trouble getting his mid-range shots to fall. Pachulia also bolstered his audition tape for the And-1 Mixtape Tour near the end of the third quarter.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 16 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +1

Bayless was quiet in 16 minutes, sprinkling a few jumpers in with a nice floater in the second quarter. He’ll have to be more efficient as a scorer, though, after shooting less than 40 percent in the month of November.

Jared Dudley, SG 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +5

The line doesn’t say much, but Dudley was active defensively and spent stints guarding James, who struggled from the field.

Jason Kidd

The Bucks outplayed the most talented team in the Eastern Conference for about 39 minutes, so no major criticisms against Kidd. The Bucks simply went cold down the stretch, while Cleveland turned to two superstars in James and Irving, who either scored or assisted on 29 of the Cavs’ 32 fourth-quarter points.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Giannis and Parker’s downright refusal to shoot three-pointers is becoming an issue. Both players passed up wide open opportunities on more than one occasion, and while that’s a testament to their headiness, it can also bog down the offense. Two occasions in the second half come to mind right away. Giannis passed on a wide open wing three in favor of a drive and ended up throwing up, and missing, a difficult shot. Did he then find a way to strip the ball back and lay it in? Of course he did. But that’s beside the point and can’t be expected to happen on a routine basis. In the other instance, Giannis passed on open three from the top of the key and ended up clanking a long jumper of the back of the rim.
  2. This. Whoa. Look at that takeoff point.
  3. I don’t know what’s going on with LeBron but that didn’t look like the same dude who’s terrorized the NBA for the better part of the last decade. I tweeted about this during the game, but he looks like he’s lost a step and really can’t get around defenders like he used to, which is resulting in an abundance of tough, fadeaway looks. That said, I’m fully expecting him to go for a triple-double next time out.
  4. Great things typically don’t happen when Larry Sanders puts the ball on the floor. Suffice it to say this was the exception of all exceptions.

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  1. fwiw I believe that was Larry’s 3rd T this season, one in the Harden tiff and another earlier last week iirc agreed on Lebron though

  2. Love to watch the way these guys play team ball, always looking for the open man. Cleveland may have (a lot) more experienced talent, but it’s hard to top the exuberance of our Bucks.

    They make me smile watching them and that is something Milwaukee fans will embrace.

    Go Bucks!

  3. Maybe in a couple of months, the refs will give the Bucks some basic respect. The game was lost at the free throw line. I thought the days of the obvious “phantom calls” were over. I guess I was wrong.