CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers finally put together a complete game against Milwaukee, withstanding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo's season-high 45-point performance to beat the Bucks 114-106 on Wednesday night.
Darius Garland added 23 points and Jarrett Allen had 19 for the Cavs, who lost their first two games against the Eastern Conference's top team this season — both times collapsing in the third quarter and losing by 15 in Milwaukee.
Cleveland didn't stumble in the third this time, and barely held on in the fourth.
Mitchell scored 15 points in the third as the Cavs opened a 24-point lead. With Antetokounmpo leading the charge, the Bucks chipped away and closed within five on Pat Connaughton's 3-pointer with 2:21 left.
But the Cavs showed some poise and Mitchell went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line in the fourth as Cleveland closed out the Bucks and perhaps sent a message in the process. MItchell made 15 of 16 free throws.
The Cavs improved the NBA's best home record to 16-2, matching their start in the 2016 championship season.
Antetokounmpo scored 24 points in the second half and added 14 rebounds. Brook Lopez had 14 points for the Bucks, who were without injured All-Star forward Khris Middleton.
After Evan Mobley picked up two early fouls, Kevin Love came in and knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions as the Cavs reeled off 15 straight points to take control early.
The Bucks, who committed 16 turnovers in the first 24 minutes, finally got going and pulled within nine on three occasions. But Cleveland closed the half with an 11-2 run, highlighted by Mitchell's step-back 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to take a 60-42 halftime lead.
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Mitchell banked in a 39-foot 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in the third quarter only to be matched by Jrue Holiday, who kissed one off the glass from the same distance at the horn.
The two guards shared a laugh and playfully patted each other on the back.
Gregg Popovich has always been a Hall of Famer to Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who has known San Antonio's coach since he was a kid.
On Wednesday, Popovich, the NBA's career victory leader, was nominated for the 2023 induction class.
Bickerstaff first met Popovich when he attended the coach's youth basketball camp. He doesn't think anyone has ever done it better than the five-time champion.
"The consistency and being in one place and creating not only a basketball team and a style," Bickerstaff said, reeling off what separates Popovich. "But he created a model that teams across the league have tried to duplicate and very few have been able to do it, if any."
Bucks: Didn't record their first assist until midway through the second quarter. ... Middleton missed his third straight game and a timetable for his return is unclear. "He's making progress and he's doing good work, but it's the same," coach Mike Budenholzer said. The three-time All-Star has been limited to seven games after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. … C Brook Lopez came in leading the NBA in blocked shots at 2.72 per game. He has finished in the top 10 nine times in 14 seasons, but is seeking his first crown.
Cavaliers: Mobley is one of four players averaging at least 15 points, nine rebounds, 2.5 assists and one block. Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis are the others. ... F Lamar Stevens (knee) missed his third straight game with soreness.
Bucks: Visit Brooklyn on Friday night.
Cavaliers: Host Toronto on Friday night.
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