CLEVELAND (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo started the game with a resounding dunk and took over in the fourth quarter when Milwaukee’s big lead was slipping away.
Just another night for the Bucks’ superstar.
Antetokounmpo scored 11 of his 33 points in the fourth, and Milwaukee held off the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-110 on Friday for its 10th straight victory.
“There’s a reason he’s the reigning MVP and he made some MVP plays tonight,” Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “There were a couple of times that I did a good job staying between him and the basket, but I’m 6-8 and he’s probably about 7-1 with his wing span.”
Listed at 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo sent home a right-handed jam after Milwaukee won the opening tip. He evaded his defender, took a bounce pass from Eric Bledsoe, and dunked over Kevin Love, who came over to help.
Antetokounmpo scored in a variety of ways with the game on the line, including a 3-pointer, a floating jumper, a tip-in and a dunk off an offensive rebound.
Antetokounmpo also grabbed 12 rebounds while extending his season-opening streak of double-doubles to 19 in a row. The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (16-3) hadn’t won 10 in a row since the 1985-86 season.
Cleveland trailed 74-52 early in the third quarter, but hit 10 3-pointers in the period and cut the lead into single figures. The Cavaliers continued to rally and Love’s layup made it 113-110 with 2:20 left — Cleveland’s final points of the game.
“We did a great job taking the lead in the first half, and we created the gap that saved us,” Antetokounmpo said. “If we didn’t have that gap, we’d probably be ticked off and mad right now.”
Khris Middleton’s jumper and two free throws by George Hill put the game away, and Antetokounmpo was once again the difference-maker.
“Giannis is obviously pretty incredible, but everyone around him is doing what it takes to be successful,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Cleveland got back in it with Antetokounmpo taking a rest in the third quarter. The Cavaliers had 42 points in their highest scoring quarter of the season. Cleveland hit 17 of 34 3-pointers for the game.
“As it turned out nobody would have predicted it in the first half, it turned out to be a really good basketball game,” Cavaliers coach John Beilein said.
Hill scored 18 points. Middleton, playing for the second time since missing seven games with a bruised left thigh, finished with 12.
Cleveland has dropped nine of 10. Rookie Darius Garland scored 21 points, including five 3-pointers, and Cedi Osman had 20 points. Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 13 rebounds, including the 5,000th of his career in the first half.
Love, who is playing despite dealing with a sore back, had 16 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. He missed games Saturday and Monday, and played 24 minutes Wednesday.
“It felt great last game and it felt good tonight,” Love said as he leaned back in his chair and tapped the wood on the side of his locker.
Bucks: The record for most consecutive double-doubles to start an NBA season is 34, set by Bill Walton in 1977. … Hill (sore back) returned after missing two games. … Donte DiVincenzo scored 11 points, and Ersan Ilyasova and Bledsoe had 10 apiece.
Cavaliers: Nance had 18 points, making 7 of 8 from the field. … Cleveland had a season-high 32 assists on 44 field goals.
Middleton has come off the bench in both games since returning from the injury. Budenholzer said he will rejoin the starting lineup soon.
“It’s going to be very short-term, him not starting,” Budenholzer said.
Beilein, who coached at Michigan for 12 seasons before taking the Cavaliers job, was diplomatic when asked about Saturday’s football game between Ohio State and the Wolverines.
“I don’t know what I’m allowed to say,” he joked. “You’ve got two great programs. Two great universities. They don’t like each other at all. I’ve been in that tunnel when they go out. Both teams. It doesn’t remind me of Sunday Mass, I’ll say that.”
Bucks: Host Charlotte on Saturday night.
Cavaliers: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.
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