CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell had 31 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers took advantage of Milwaukee being without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to extend their winning streak to a season-best six games by pounding the Bucks 135-95 on Wednesday night.
Antetokounmpo sat with a bruised right shoulder, an injury that kept him out of the lineup for the first time in 29 games — the second longest streak of his career. The two-time MVP is not expected to be out for an extended period.
The Bucks had better hope not.
Georges Niang made 13 of 14 shots and added a career-high 33 points — 20 in the first half — for the Cavs, who improved to 11-3 since they lost Darius Garland (broken jaw) and Evan Mobley (knee surgery) with injuries last month.
Jarrett Allen added 21 points and 13 rebounds — his 10th straight double-double — for Cleveland.
On a night when the Bucks were missing Antetokounmpo’s presence along with his 31 points and needed someone to step up, no one did.
Damian Lillard, who hit a 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer to beat Sacramento on Sunday, led Milwaukee with 17 points on just 7 of 20 shooting. Khris Middleton had two points, going 1 of 10 from the field.
The injuries to Garland and Mobley threatened to derail Cleveland’s season. However, the opposite has happened as the Cavs have played better at both ends without them and moved among the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
They took the Bucks out of this one almost immediately, blasting to a 20-point lead in the first six minutes.
Any thought Milwaukee had of staging a comeback ended in the second quarter, when Niang made four 3-pointers, his last giving the Cavs a 55-30 lead.
Cleveland’s lead swelled to 40 in the third quarter before Bucks coach Adrian Griffin pulled his starters and cleared his bench, bringing in seldom used Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother.
It was the first of three games between the Bucks and Cavs in nine days. They’ll play on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 in Milwaukee.
Mitchell scored 14 in the first quarter as the Cavs opened 8 of 9 from the floor in bolting to a 22-2 lead over the Bucks, who looked lost, uninspired and nothing like a title contender without the seven-time All-Star Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee made just one of its first 13 shots, and the Bucks didn’t get their second field goal until 5:41 remained in the quarter.