MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton scored 27 points and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood the absence of two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-90 on Saturday night at Fiserv Forum.
Antetokounmpo sat out with back spasms after taking a hard fall one night earlier in a loss to the Utah Jazz. Middleton, an All-Star each of the last two seasons, continued his habit of putting up big numbers whenever Antetokounmpo is sidelined.
“The ball’s probably in his hands a little bit more on a night like tonight,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “When a teammate is down, he’s a guy that wants to be there to help not just pick up that guy but the whole group. It’s certainly been a trend for him. It’s just a testament to how good he is.”
Bobby Portis replaced Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup and scored 17 points as the Bucks (6-4) closed a five-game home stretch in which they went 4-1. After Jrue Holiday made the game’s first basket, Portis scored the Bucks’ next 10 points.
Budenholzer said before the game that the Bucks were hopeful that Antetokounmpo’s injury is “a short-term thing.”
“We’ll see how he feels. Another 24-48 hours can make a big difference. He’s a quick healer and everything,” Budenholzer said. “When appropriate, we’ll always err on the side of caution in keeping him healthy and thinking about the long term with him.”
The Bucks overcame a huge performance from Cleveland’s Andre Drummond, who had 26 points and 24 rebounds. Drummond was the first Cavalier to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game since Anderson Varejao did it against Boston on Jan. 31, 2012.
Cleveland (5-5) needed a big night from Drummond because it was missing so many weapons as it completed a six-game road swing.
Collin Sexton, who averages a team-high 25.1 points, missed a second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Other sidelined Cavaliers included Kevin Love (strained right calf), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion), Dante Exum (strained right calf), Darius Garland (sprained right shoulder), Kevin Porter Jr. (personal reasons) and Dylan Windler (fractured left hand).
Holiday had 15 points, D.J. Wilson scored 12 and Donte DiVincenzo added 11 for Milwaukee. Damyean Dotson scored 21 and Larry Nance Jr. added 17 for Cleveland.
The Bucks led by 19 early in the second quarter before the Cavaliers got back into the game with a 16-0 spurt that included nine points from Drummond.
Cleveland tied the game 37-37 on Drummond’s basket with 3:12 left in the second quarter, but Middleton responded with eight straight points as the Bucks closed the first half with a 10-0 run.
The Bucks stayed in front the rest of the way.
“Great teams, they don’t just win a game one way,” Middleton said. “They can win it in many different styles. The key thing is to win those games, no matter what.”
Bucks: Wilson had fallen out of the rotation and hadn’t played in the last three games, but he got an opportunity Saturday and capitalized. He shot 5 of 9 from the floor in his 16-minute stint. ... Pat Connaughton returned to action after missing three games with a groin injury. He scored six points in 11 minutes.
Cavaliers: Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game that Cleveland’s short-handed roster means the Cavs must “make the game as ugly as we possibly can” by winning with defense. The Cavs did their part on that end of the floor and became the first team to hold Milwaukee below 108 points this season. But they didn’t have nearly enough offense to win the game.
Bucks: Visit the Orlando Magic on Monday in a rematch of a first-round playoff series Milwaukee won in five games last season.
Cleveland 14 23 26 27 — 90
Milwaukee 27 20 31 22 — 100
CLEVELAND — Nance Jr. 6-11 2-2 17, Osman 4-13 0-0 9, Drummond 11-23 4-5 26, Dotson 8-17 3-3 21, Okoro 2-8 0-4 4, McGee 1-6 2-2 4, Stevens 0-1 0-0 0, Maker 1-4 0-0 2, Wade 3-3 0-0 7. Totals 36-86 11-16 90.
MILWAUKEE — Middleton 10-16 4-4 27, Portis 7-11 2-3 17, Lopez 3-11 1-2 7, DiVincenzo 3-10 2-2 11, Holiday 5-12 5-7 15, T.Antetokounmpo 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 5-9 0-0 12, Augustin 2-7 0-0 5, Connaughton 2-5 0-0 6, Forbes 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 37-84 14-18 100.
3-point goals — C 7-26 (Nance Jr. 3-6, Dotson 2-7, Osman 1-8), M 12-36 (Middleton 3-6, DiVincenzo 3-8, Connaughton 2-3, Wilson 2-3, Portis 1-2, Augustin 1-4, Holiday 0-2, Forbes 0-3, Lopez 0-5). Rebounds — C 47 (Drummond 24), M 45 (Portis 11). Assists — C 16 (Dotson 8), M 25 (Middleton 6). Total fouls — C 18, M 14.