Following one of its most embarrassing losses of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to regroup in time for a matchup against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
Cleveland fell 120-114 at home on Friday to a Golden State Warriors squad that rested star Stephen Curry along with fellow starters Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
The Warriors shot 23 of 43 (53.5 per cent) from 3-point range and led by as many as 20 in the third quarter.
“We didn’t respect the game. It’s that simple,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “They’re champions over there, and they had some guys out there. We got what we deserved.”
The Cavaliers played without star guard Donovan Mitchell, who missed his second straight game due to a strained groin. Mitchell could return to face Milwaukee.
Cleveland, which has lost three of its past four, should have reserve guard Ricky Rubio available after the veteran sat out Friday’s contest to rest his surgically repaired left knee.
One bright spot in the loss to Golden State was the play of point guard Darius Garland, who had 31 points and nine assists in 40 minutes.
The Cavaliers have also received a spark this month from third-year pro Isaac Okoro. The 6-foot-5 forward is shooting 57.7 per cent (15 of 26) from beyond the arc over his past 10 games.
“It’s super fun to see him knock some shots down,” Garland said. “We always talk about his work ethic. Of course, it was going to show. Doesn’t matter if it’s game day, shootaround, or practice, he’s on the same regimen every day. The work is paying off. We see it every day.”
Cleveland is aiming for a series split against Milwaukee after dropping two of the first three meetings. The Cavaliers won the latest matchup 114-106 on December 21 despite 45 points and 14 rebounds from Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee is aiming for its third straight win but could be without Antetokounmpo, who has missed the past four games due to left knee soreness.
“He’ll be ready to go soon, but we’ve just got to take it day by day with him,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s doing a lot of work in the weight room, he’s doing some work on the court, (and) he’s doing some of his warmups.”
With Antetokounmpo sidelined, Milwaukee has leaned on point guard Jrue Holiday, who is averaging 27 points, 8.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds over his past five games while shooting 56.7 per cent from the field and 45.9 per cent from 3-point range.
Holiday has also helped the Bucks overcome the absence of forward Khris Middleton, who will miss his 18th straight game on Saturday with right knee soreness.
“Obviously we’re a little bit down, a little bit undermanned and (Holiday) has just stepped up in a big way,” Budenholzer said. “It’s just vintage Jrue Holiday. He just seems like he’s got a bounce, he’s got a pop. The way he’s shooting the ball and when gets to the rim and to the paint and gives us that presence, too. He’s doing everything.”
Milwaukee enters Saturday’s contest on one of its best shooting streaks of the season. The Bucks averaged 131 points while shooting 53.1 per cent from the field and 49.4 per cent from 3-point range in back-to-back wins over the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors earlier this week.