CLEVELAND: Even when he’s sick, Kyrie Irving makes life miserable on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Irving scored 39 points and set a career high with 4 blocks and the Cavs narrowly escaped with a 114-111 overtime victory against the worst team in the NBA.
The Bucks dressed just nine players and were without a pair of starters in Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova, but they pushed a Cavs team that continues to struggle against the league’s weaker teams. The Bucks have now lost five straight and six of their last seven.
The Cavs were short-handed, too. Dion Waiters missed the game with tendonitis in his wrist and Anthony Bennett was sick.
Irving was ill, too, but decided to play about an hour before tip-off and finished with a team-high 43 minutes.
“I was laying in the same spot for the last two days,” said Irving, who missed Thursday’s practice and Friday’s morning shootaround. “I just gotta get through it.”
Irving continued to torment the Bucks, the team he inexplicably punishes more than any other in the league. He entered averaging 27 points against them, his highest scoring average against any opponent, then scored more than 30 points for the fifth time this season and the third time in his last five games.
Irving made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to begin overtime, then assisted on a long Jarrett Jack jumper to push the lead to 104-98. Earl Clark made a big 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime with the shot clock expiring, but the Bucks responded with a 3-pointer to pull within 110-108.
Irving was fouled on a drive to the rim and made both free throws to push the lead to 112-108 with 21.5 seconds left.
The Bucks came right back with a 3-pointer from Mayo and the Bucks tried forcing the ball out of Irving’s hands to avoid fouling him. Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo double-teamed him, but Irving kept splitting the double teams and put on a magnificent dribbling display. The Bucks finally relented and Knight fouled Irving, who made both free throws. Mayo had clean looks at a pair of 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds, but missed them both and the Cavs survived.
They forced overtime when Tristan Thompson tipped in a miss from Irving with 1.8 seconds left to tie the game at 96. Thompson battled foul trouble but still had 10 points and 15 rebounds. The Cavs scored 10 of the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to take an 80-72 lead, but they failed to bury the weary Bucks.
With the game tied at 94 and the Bucks running in transition, Anderson Varejao was called for a foul when John Henson tripped and fell to the floor. It didn’t appear Varejao ever touched him on replays, but he was assessed a technical for arguing the call and the Bucks took a 96-94 lead after splitting the four free throws.
Jack missed on consecutive possessions for the Cavs, but they were able to tie it anyway because Thompson was in the right spot following Irving’s drive. The Bucks’ inept offense helped, too.
The Bucks didn’t score a field goal over the final 3:45 of regulation.