CLEVELAND — Rookie Collin Sexton scored 25 points, Jordan Clarkson added 23 and the Cleveland Cavaliers delayed Milwaukee from clinching the Central Division on Wednesday night with a 107-102 win over the bruised Bucks, who were without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Sexton made a 3-pointer with 1:42 left and dropped a driving layup one minute later as the Cavs held on. Down 105-102, Milwaukee had a chance to tie it but had an ugly turnover without getting a shot off.
Khris Middleton scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe 24 for the Bucks, who couldn’t wrap up their first division title since 2001. They were at a disadvantage as Antetokounmpo sat his second straight game with a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks weren’t just without Antetokounmpo, one of the top MVP candidates, either. They were also down five other rotational players including starting guard Malcolm Brogdon (foot) and forward Nikola Mirotic (thumb).
Sexton’s development has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary season for Cleveland. He became the only rookie in team history to score at least 23 points in seven straight games. Austin Carr (1972) did it six times.
Sexton also became the first NBA rookie to score 23 points in seven straight games since Tim Duncan.
“That’s what’s up,” Sexton said when told of the mark. “It’s cool. He’s a legend.”
Cleveland’s Kevin Love, who missed Monday’s game in Detroit with a sore lower back, left in the third quarter with an apparent head injury. He banged heads with Bledsoe late in the second quarter and played three minutes in the third before going to the locker room.
Love finished with 10 rebounds in 18 minutes.
While the Bucks are nursing injuries, the Cavs were as close to full strength as they’ve been in months as Tristan Thompson returned after missing 26 games with a sore left foot. It was a rare chance for coach Larry Drew to have three of his top frontcourt players in Thompson, Love and Larry Nance Jr., who had missed the previous five games with a chest bruise.
“It feels a little weird having all these bodies back and being able to experiment with some things,” Drew said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”
Middleton did all he could to carry the Bucks in the first half by scoring 18 points. But without enough support, he couldn’t keep up with the better-balanced Cavs, who built a 16-point lead and went into the locker room at halftime leading by 11.
Bucks: Were also without G Sterling Brown (wrist), G Donte DiVicenzo (heel), G George Hill (groin) and C Pau Gasol (ankle). … Coach Mike Budenholzer and Bledsoe were given technicals for arguing during the break between the first and second quarters. … Budenholzer dismissed a report that Mirotic, who got hurt during Tuesday’s win over the Lakers, could be out for as long as a month. The Bucks did not provide a timeline in their release. “These things can always change,” he said. “In a perfect world, they’re less. Sometimes they take longer. This is a little bit of a unique injury.” … Antetokounmpo scored 44 with 14 rebounds in Milwaukee’s win at Cleveland on Dec. 14. … Dropped to 13-2 in the Central.
Cavaliers: Nance finished with seven points, a team-high five assists, two steals and two blocks. … Although having Thompson on the floor would have certainly helped them win some games, Drew said the Cavs didn’t push Thompson. “I was hoping we would have gotten him back sooner,” Drew said. “But any time you are dealing with an injury, you can’t rush players back. ” … G Matthew Dellavedova missed his seventh straight game with a concussion.
Bucks: Host Miami on Friday.
Cavaliers: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.