Banged-up Cavs show some guts, get glory

LeBron James and the Cavaliers fought off the fiesty Bucks. (AP)
Sam Amico
Sam Amico

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It was a game the Cavaliers had won, building an 18-point lead. Then they almost lost it.

Then they seemed to have it won again.

Then they almost didn’t.

That’s just the way the night went — back and forth, up and down and seemingly sometimes sideways.

Oh, and they lost J.R. Smith with a thumb injury. (More on that in a minute.) Oh, and they never had Kevin Love, who sat out with a knee contusion.

But with a little championship experience and a whole lot of LeBron James, the visiting Cavs, finally, soared above the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime for a 114-108 win Tuesday night.

These are the type of games the Cavs are winning more often than not these days. They are also the type of games that can make coach Tyronn Lue shake his head in irritation and cause the fans to scream for answers.

And yet, somehow, the Cavs still come out on top.

Again, lots of credit must go to James, who finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. James so often puts up those kind of numbers that they can almost seem run-of-the-mill.

They’re not, and the Cavs (20-6) needed every last one of them. That’s what makes James so special.

He also was an icy 5-of-9 on 3-pointers — an area of the game in which he’s made great strides from last season.

“I gotta trust my workouts. I put a lot of hard work into my shot,” James told FOX Sports Ohio. “When it’s not going down for me, I can always go to other parts of my game. But I gotta be able to knock those down and I did tonight.”

One of those threes seemed to come from Kenosha, Wis., and for James and the Cavs, the end result truly was happy days.

Kyrie Irving struggled shooting (8-of-23) but still managed an important 28 points. Channing Frye came off the bench to score 15, and Tristan Thompson tallied 10 points, 12 boards and tons of guts.

Meanwhile, Smith’s thumb was injured in the first half. Images taken in Milwaukee were inconclusive, but the Cavs fear the thumb is broken, according to a report from ESPN.

The team will know more Wednesday, when Smith undergoes an MRI in Cleveland.

Bucks forward Jabari Parker was fantastic with 30 points, proving again to be a rising star with an array of strong and crafty post moves.

But with the Bucks trailing 110-108 he missed two free throws after a highly questionable foul call on Thompson.

The Bucks (13-13) never scored again.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 25 points before fouling out in overtime, and former Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova scored eight with five assists.

Dellavedova will receive his championship ring Wednesday in Cleveland, where the Cavs and Bucks face off again. Tipoff is schedule for 7 p.m. EST.

Video: One-on-one with Cavs’ LeBron James