MILWAUKEE: One of Mike Brown’s keys to Friday night was to remind his players to respect the game, respect the opponent and close the season the right way.
So much for that.
The Cavs became one of the few teams in the league to lose twice to the Milwaukee Bucks this season, blowing a 14-point lead Friday in falling 119-116 at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
They’re just the second team, joining the Orlando Magic, to lose twice in this building and only the fifth team to lose twice to the Bucks, who presently are dragging the league’s worst record into the draft lottery.
The Cavs surrendered 37 points to the Bucks in the first quarter, a season high for the Bucks for points in an opening quarter, but the Cavs rallied to take a 55-41 lead by scoring 14 consecutive points in the second quarter.
It was short lived.
The Bucks shot 61 percent in the third quarter (11-for-18) and 52 percent for the game to end a six-game losing streak and split the four-game series with the Cavs. The only other teams to lose twice to the Bucks this season are the Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Dion Waiters scored 23 points, Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Jarrett Jack had 21 points off the bench. Kyrie Irving had 12 points and two assists. He took two shots through his first 19 minutes on the floor before finishing 4-for-12 in 32 minutes.
A layup by Irving with 1:37 left cut the deficit to 115-112, but the Bucks made their free throws in the final minutes.
The Bucks took a 113-110 lead on a jumper from Khris Middleton with 2:15 left and held it the rest of the way. Waiters dribbled the ball out of bounds on the Cavs’ ensuing possession, Zaza Pachulia made a pair of free throws and the Cavs couldn’t outshoot the Bucks on a night they struggled to defend. The Bucks scored 58 points in the paint, including 13 of 16 baskets in the first quarter. The inside attack continued the rest of the night.
Brandon Knight had 24 points and four assists and Ramon Sessions had 20 points for the Bucks, who improved to 15-64.
The Cavs were playing without Luol Deng, who missed the game with a stiff lower back.
Mike Brown could’ve moved into sole possession of second place on the franchise’s all-time victories list with a victory. Instead, he remains tied for second with Bill Fitch at 304 victories.