CLEVELAND — — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points, Jrue Holiday added 17 and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 123-105 on Friday night in the opener of a six-game road trip that began with travel delays.
Antetokounmpo picked up two early fouls and started slowly. But the reigning NBA MVP found his groove in the second half, scoring 22 points and muscling his way inside for easy baskets.
Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds and Dante DiVincenzo had 11 points, 11 boards and six assists for the Bucks, who outscored the Cavs 29-16 in the the fourth and won their third straight.
Collin Sexton scored 19 and Andre Drummond 18 for Cleveland, which has been one of the NBA’s surprise teams but is starting a difficult stretch, beginning with back-to-back home games with the tough and talented Bucks.
Milwaukee’s longest trip of the season’s first half began ominously.
The Bucks were supposed to leave Thursday night, but mechanical issues with their plane while they were on the tarmac forced them to fly to Cleveland on game day. The Bucks didn’t arrive until early in the afternoon, and then they were a little late in getting it together against the Cavs.
Cleveland was still within four early in the fourth quarter when Middleton and Antetokounmpo drained 3-pointers to push Milwaukee’s lead to 10.
The Cavs, who made 11 3s after attempting just 10 on Wednesday night, stayed within striking distance before Bryn Forbes buried a long 3 for the Bucks to make it 117-105.
Bucks: Embarked on their longest road trip since the 2017-18 season … Milwaukee made just seven 3-pointers after getting 21 in each of its past two games. No team in history has ever made 20 3s in three straight games. … Milwaukee is 7-0 against the Central Division.
Cavaliers: Fan favorite G Matthew Dellavedova, who hasn’t played this season because of a severe concussion, went on Twitter to dismiss a report he’s considering retirement. He called it a “temporary setback” and said his “only focus is getting healthy and back with the boys to help make a playoff push.” … F Larry Nance remained sidelined with a sprained right wrist. … Cleveland had its biggest crowd this season — 2,720 fans —- after the state of Ohio granted a variance allowing the team to bump its attendance at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse from 10% percent of capacity to 14%.
The teams play again on Saturday.