Bench, three-ball cost Bucks in loss to Cavs

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks reached but fell short vs. LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Monday.

All night, the Milwaukee Bucks stayed within striking distance.

When you’re playing a team with LeBron James, on that team’s home court, that’s really about all you can ask.

But it wasn’t to be, and the Cavs’ reserves were the primary reason, outplaying the Bucks in what would become a 124-117 Milwaukee loss Monday.

“It did hurt us a lot,”Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said of the Cleveland bench. “They had the second unit in and that was the chance for us to get some easy points and make a run but we didn’t.”

Antetokounmpo was primarily referring to the Cavs opening up a 14-point lead with the majority of the starters taking a breather. The Bucks (37-33) never recovered.

“They made the run and then you’ve got the starters coming back in, you’ve got LeBron coming back in and it’s tough now,” Antetokounmpo said. “We did a good job to keep playing hard, keep moving the ball and keep being into the game. We never gave up.”

But it wasn’t mean to be for Milwaukee, which fell to eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. If the playoffs started today, it would have to open against top-seeded Toronto, the same team that bounced the Bucks last season.

Another aspect that really hurt the Bucks? The old long ball, with the Bucks going just 8-of-31 from beyond the arc, compared to 15-of-38 for the Cavs. In fact, you make the case that the three-ball was an even bigger factor than the bench play.

“Overall, I thought we got good quality shots; I thought we shot a high percentage,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “Obviously, the three-ball was a huge difference in terms of the amount they made versus us.”

Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 37 points and 11 rebounds.