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Cavs no match for Bucks, even with Antetokounmpo sitting out

Giannis Antetokounmpo got the night off with a sore neck, but the Milwaukee Bucks never needed him with the Cleveland Cavaliers in town.

Eric Bledsoe set the tone in the first half, and the Bucks led by as many as 29 before settling for a 108-92 victory Monday night at Fiserv Forum.

Cleveland made the score a little uncomfortable in the final six minutes, but the 6-21 Cavaliers were never a real threat to steal the game.

The Cavs might have been a threat had they proved able to make shots. Even while trimming a 29-point deficit down to 11, the Cavs couldn’t get their shooting marks up near the 40% mark. Cleveland finished at 36.8% (36 of 96). Other than Tristan Thompson’s 6-for-7 night, the rest of the Cavs starters combined to go 10 for 46.

Bledsoe finished the night with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks (18-8), who pulled within two games of Toronto (21-7) for the top spot in the East. Bledsoe’s 12th rebound came at the offensive end, and he then drove for a layup that pushed the Bucks back to a 96-81 lead with 4:28 left.

Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points for the Bucks, and Khris Middleton chipped in 16. Sterling Brown had a strong game off the bench, posting 12 points and eight rebounds.

Larry Nance Jr. came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers with 16 points.

A day after a playoff-atmosphere road victory at Toronto on Sunday, this one lacked intensity from the start. The teams combined to go 0 for 9 before Brook Lopez got the Bucks on the board with 10:12 left in the first. The Cavaliers never did lead in the game.

A 9-0 run pushed the Bucks to a 50-30 lead, and it grew as big as 29 points in the third quarter. Garbage time came early, and the Cavs got within 11 in a fourth quarter that saw Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer put starters Lopez, Bledsoe, Middleton and Lopez back on the floor.

While the game lacked the glamour and intensity of Sunday’s matchup, it still was a game where the Bucks had to take care of business. They did so, even if it wasn’t always pretty.

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