MILWAUKEE -- In order for the Milwaukee Bucks to take the next step, they're going to have to avoid nights like Saturday.
Playing their fourth game in five days, the Bucks lacked energy from the start and nothing could get them going. The end result was a 94-82 loss to a Cavaliers team that entered losers of six straight and 11 of its last 13.
"Right from the jump ball, we looked really fatigued," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We didn't have a lot of energy. We were kind of walking to our spots. We shot a couple of layups three feet over the rim, shot airballs. We were right and left, short and long."
It's certainly been a long and exhausting week for Milwaukee including an overtime win over Boston Friday night but Cleveland was playing its fourth game in five nights as well.
The Cavaliers had yet to win the second game of a back-to-back in nine tries this season prior to Saturday.
"I think that might be a factor," Bucks center Larry Sanders said of fatigue. "We don't hang our hat on that, though. This is a game we should have won."
Bucks guard Monta Ellis scored a season-high 37 points on 15 of 27 shooting, but the rest of the team made just 16 field goals combined and nobody else finished with double-digit points.
Falling down by 20 with 4:01 to play in the third quarter, Milwaukee went on a 16-2 run, and it appeared as if it had found something, maybe early enough to have a chance to win the game. A bucket at the buzzer by Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving and a 4-0 run to start the quarter quickly extinguished any hope.
"When we came out of the timeout, we pulled together and we just said, it's not going to happen today,' Irving said. "Obviously, they made their run and then we just had to stay solid. We slowed the game down and (again) started to play at our pace."
The Bucks have now dropped games to three of the NBA's four worst teams. Sitting at 14-12, Milwaukee is left to wonder where it would sit without those losses.
Skiles has made the point all season that there's a difference between winning and playing well. The Bucks have won and played well but haven't done both consistently. After an emotional win over Boston earlier this season, Milwaukee fell to New Orleans two nights later.
Friday night's win over the Celtics was another grind-it-out, draining win. How much it took out of the Bucks was clear Saturday night.
"There's a skill and an art to mentally and physically preparing yourself to play, and tonight obviously they were prepared and we weren't," Skiles said. " (This is a) tough league to play in when you are riding the wave of good games emotionally, and then you can't bring it the next night. That's where there's separation between the teams."
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