After their disappointing game against the Miami Heat, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to look like a championship-caliber team again. After dominating the Nuggets 124-91, Tyronn Lue’s squad welcomed the Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks to the Q. Playing on his 24th birthday, one has to wonder if Kyrie Irving wished for his first NBA Championship ring as he blew out the candles on his birthday cake. Outscored against the Bucks by teammates James and Kevin Love, the win against an Eastern Conference opponent will help keep the Toronto Raptors at bay as the teams compete for the top seed in this year’s NBA Playoffs.
Before all of Wednesday’s NBA action got underway, LeBron James and the Cavaliers lead the Eastern Conference by 1.5 games. In an attempt to close that gap, the Raptors traveled to Boston to face the Celtics. Milwaukee came into Wednesday’s game fighting a much different battle. While not yet mathematically eliminated from Playoff contention, they sat in 11th place in the NBA East, seven games behind 8th place Detroit Pistons.
On his birthday, Irving had to work harder than anyone else on the team, logging a team-high 38+ minutes. In that time, Kyrie was good for 16 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. The only Cavs to outscore the birthday boy were Love and King James, while three others (Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, and JR Smith) also scored in the double-digits.
Following his triple-double against Denver, LeBron lead the Cavs with 26 points. Short of even a double-double, James grabbed 6 boards and dished out 8 assists. With the post-season right around the corner, LeBron seems more focused on his game and less distracted by his social media accounts.
Kevin Love (along with Thompson) lead the team in rebounds with 10. He had a game-high 4 three-pointers that helped him reach 24 points on the night.
While the game always felt like it was being controlled by the Cavs, the Bucks kept it competitive throughout, with only four points separating the teams as the fourth quarter began. Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Bucks in points (24) and rebounds (6). Khris Middleton had a game-high 11 assists and was the only starter of the game to score less than 10 points (9). Jabari Parker finished the game with 14 points and a game-high 4 steals.
With the 113-104 defeat, the Milwaukee Bucks are 11th in the Eastern Conference, 23.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. As they prepare for the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, they will be eight games behind 8th place Detroit. A lot could still happen, however, as the only teams in the conference to clinch a playoff berth are Cleveland and Toronto.
With the Raptors dropping a game to the Celtics in Boston, Cleveland’s victory over the Bucks provides a thin 2.5 game lead over second-place Toronto. They will hope to build on that lead as their next four opponents all have losing records at this time.
On Thursday, the Cavs travel to Brooklyn to play the Nets before hosting the same team a week later. Coincidentally, the Cavs also have two games left against the Atlanta Hawks.
Where to Watch
The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets will air on local affiliate FOX Sports Ohio. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. EST.
[Image via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]