While the Milwaukee Bucks figure to have their point guard back, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still a ways off from having theirs, but the wins keep coming with a replacement filling in admirably.
Michael Carter-Williams is expected to return from a five-game absence Saturday night as the Cavaliers visit Milwaukee with a shot at matching their best 10-game start ever.
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Cleveland (8-1) remains without Kyrie Irving as the guard recovers from a broken knee cap, but the absence hasn't shown up in its record since losing the opener in Chicago. The Cavs have since won eight straight and can start 9-1 for the first time since 1976-77.
In Friday's 90-84 win in New York, LeBron James scored 31 points and Mo Williams made a tiebreaking jumper with 41 seconds left to finish with 20.
Kevin Love continued struggling with his shot, going 2 for 10 and dropping to 35.6 percent in his last five. James, though, is averaging 30.5 in the last four games, while Williams is scoring 19.7 and shooting 55.1 percent in his last six. The former Milwaukee guard is making the absence of Irving easier to handle, though it was more of a defensive effort that led to the win.
Cleveland held the Knicks to 12 points in the fourth quarter and 31 in the second half with New York shooting 36.7 percent for the game.
"Some games you've got to win without your fastball, and this was one of those games and a big part of that was what we did on the defensive end," coach David Blatt said.
The Cavs won three of four against Milwaukee last season, though the Bucks won't have to deal with Irving, who scored 25.0 points per game in the series. That's not making Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd approach this much differently.
"You're talking about one of the best teams in the league, not just the East, and they have the best player in the world in LeBron," Kidd said. ". . . For us, we have our work cut out. They cause a lot of problems. They're big. They're veterans, and they know how to play, so we're going to have to play one of our best games if we want any chance."
Milwaukee (4-5) has dropped consecutive games, and Wednesday's 103-102 defeat in Denver came despite shooting a season-best 53.2 percent. Jerryd Bayless came off the bench for 22 points and is averaging 17.7 while shooting 53.1 percent and 61.5 from 3-point range in the last three games.
Aside from that, though, the Bucks haven't been pleased with their bench play. Their reserves are shooting 39.8 percent for the season and are being outscored by opponent benches 39.9-30.1.
"Speaking for the bench, we haven't been good these last few games, me included," forward John Henson said. ". . . The bench has got to do a better job at least just keeping it even until the guys can get some rest."
That might not be as vital with a few starters returning.
Jabari Parker was rested on the second night of a back-to-back as he continues his return from a left ACL injury suffered 11 months ago. Carter-Williams is said to be probable after sitting with a left ankle sprain.
Carter-Williams scored 30 points in the latest meeting - a 104-99 Cleveland win on April 8. Parker's only game against the Cavs was one of his best, scoring 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting in a 111-108 loss in Cleveland on Dec. 2.