Bucks-Cavaliers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 24, 2013
The Milwaukee Bucks just gave their general manager a three-year extension, they're 6-2 under an interim coach and they're about to face a team they have mostly beaten of late. If Kyrie Irving plays near the level he did his last time out, though, the Cleveland Cavaliers can hardly be overlooked. The Bucks look to match their longest winning streak of the season at four Friday night while looking for a fifth straight victory in Cleveland, where Irving will try to deliver an encore to his second career 40-point performance. It's been a little more than two weeks since Milwaukee (22-18) and coach Scott Skiles parted ways, but the Bucks haven't responded well under Jim Boylan. After returning from a 3-1 road trip to face Philadelphia on Tuesday, they shot a season high-tying 51.9 percent in a 110-102 victory. A day later, Milwaukee extended general manager John Hammond, who has some major decisions looming with Brandon Jennings a restricted free agent this summer and Monta Ellis eligible to opt out of his deal. "Everything is going well right now," said Jennings, who has 55 points and 15 assists over his last two games. "We are playing with lots of confidence. (Beating Philadelphia) was a big win for us as in the past when we win a few games, we end up losing to a team we should not lose to." His team defeated the lowly Cavaliers (11-32) twice this season and nine straight overall before a 94-82 home loss Dec. 22. Jennings had one of his worst games with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. The oddity of that defeat was that Milwaukee contained Irving, who had scored at least 26 in each of his first four career meetings with the Bucks. The reigning Rookie of the Year was held to 15, but five other Cleveland players scored in double figures while only Ellis (season-high 37) did for Milwaukee. Ellis has averaged 30.8 points over the last four meetings and may now find himself in a back-and-forth battle with Irving. After failing to score more than 18 points on three of the final four stops on Cleveland's road trip, Irving exploded for 40 - 15 in the fourth quarter - in Tuesday's 95-90 win over Boston. The Cavs are 4-2 this season when Irving scores more than 30. "When he's aggressive, everyone picks up on that," coach Byron Scott said. "... That's the type of player that we need out there. He's obviously capable of doing that every single night. When he's aggressive, he makes us a better basketball team." Scott will soon have three new players after general manager Chris Grant took advantage of Memphis' desire to get under the luxury tax Tuesday by acquiring Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby along with a future first-round pick for Jon Leuer. The deal became official Thursday, but the three aren't expected to play until Tuesday against Golden State. That leaves Cleveland short-handed up front, but it has outrebounded the Bucks in all three meetings this season. Top rebounder Anderson Varejao played the first two, but he's out for the season. Milwaukee big man Ersan Ilyasova, a disappointment after signing a five-year, $40 million extension in the offseason, has averaged 6.7 points on 29.2 percent shooting in the season series. However, he's scored 54 points and grabbed 30 rebounds in his last two games. The Bucks' four-game win streak in Cleveland includes a 90-86 victory Dec. 14, when the Cavs had 27 turnovers - their most in more than five years.
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