LeBron James returned from a bout with strep throat and scored 24 points, Kyrie Irving added 25 and the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Milwaukee Bucks 102-95 on Monday night.
James missed Saturday’s loss to Chicago – the Cavs fell to 0-4 this season without their superstar – and was listed as questionable before arriving at Quicken Loans Arena. He looked fit from the start, delivering an early dunk and adding one in the fourth that he capped by screaming, “That’s and one!” at MiIwaukee’s John Henson, who fouled him.
James’ dunk triggered an 11-0 run that helped put away the Bucks, who were within 86-85 midway through the fourth.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 to lead Milwaukee, and Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just nine on 4-of-13 shooting.
The Bucks may have sustained a costly injury as forward Michael Beasley sprained his left knee in the first half. Beasley’s knee buckled grotesquely as he tried to defend James on the baseline. He scored 11 points before going down and had to be helped to Milwaukee’s locker room.
Looking to stay on top in the East, the Cavs signed free agent point guard Deron Williams before the game.
The three-time All-Star gives Cleveland depth, someone to lead its second unit and a reliable backup for Irving. Williams negotiated a buyout of his contract last week with Dallas before being waived and informing the Cavs he wanted to join them and try to win a title.
Cleveland is more than happy to add him to a bench that has improved in the last month with the additions of Kyle Korver and Derrick Williams, who combined for 27 points in the win.
There’s also a chance the Cavs could sign free agent center Andrew Bogut, who was waived by Philadelphia on Monday and is being courted by several teams.
Derrick Williams beat the horn ending the third quarter by dropping a 3-pointer from 35 feet to give Cleveland a 77-73 lead entering the fourth.
The Cavs were down by seven earlier in the quarter before going on a 13-0 run.
Bucks: Beasley started for G Khris Middleton, who didn’t make the trip as part of the team’s plan to rest him in back-to-back games. He missed three months with a torn hamstring. … G Matthew Dellavedova spent part of the pregame meeting with former Cavs teammates and coaches. He received his diamond championship ring on Milwaukee’s previous visit. … Coach Jason Kidd said it’s a treat getting to watch Antetokounmpo develop. He’s the only NBA player leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. “It’s a great seat to have,” Kidd said. “When you’re able to see for the last three years, his growth and understanding, how fast he picked up things and how much he wants to be good in this league.”
Cavaliers: Irving became the eighth player in team history with 2,000 career assists. … While James was better, coach Tyronn Lue was under the weather and awaiting results on a strep test. … Deron Williams received a loud ovation when he was introduced during the fourth quarter. He has worn No. 8 throughout his career, but will don 31 for Cleveland. “My first high school number was 31,” he said. “I wanted a single number, but all of them were pretty much taken, so I went with 31.”
Bucks: Host Denver on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Boston, currently the East’s No. 2 team.