CLEVELAND – Kyrie Irving made four free throws in the final 21.5 seconds of overtime and finished with 39 points while battling a flu bug, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-111 win over the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
Irving played despite being ill the past two days and missing practice Thursday. The All-Star guard played 43 minutes and carried the Cavs to their fifth win in six home games.
Earl Clark made a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 44 seconds left in overtime, and Jarrett Jack added 17 points for the Cavs. Tristan Thompson had 15 rebounds for Cleveland.
With Milwaukee down by three, O.J. Mayo missed two 3-pointers in the last 10 seconds.
Mayo had 20 points, John Henson 18 and Brandon Knight added 17 and a career-high 14 rebounds as the banged-up Bucks lost their fifth straight. It was the second straight tough loss for Milwaukee, which lost in double-overtime to New York on Wednesday.
Before the game, Irving said he spent the last two days “in the same spot at home” as he tried to get well.
“I just got to get through it,” he said before tip-off. “I’m just going to give it my all and live with the results.”
They turned out fine as he willed himself and his team past the Bucks, who came in with the NBA’s worst record at 5-20 and were missing several key players because of injuries. However, Milwaukee was more than game and overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Henson’s two free throws gave Milwaukee a 96-94 lead late in regulation, but the Cavs forced OT on Thompson’s tip-in of Irving’s miss with 1.8 seconds left.
Milwaukee had a final chance to win it in regulation, but Khris Middleton’s 20-footer at the horn hit the front of the rim.
Irving made two 3s early in the five-minute extra session, and when Jack knocked down a 3 with 1:46 left, it appeared the Bucks were done.
But Middleton hit a 3-pointer, and after Irving made two free throws with 21.5 left, Mayo, who was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game for a family funeral, buried a 3 to pull the Bucks within 112-111.
Irving then drew a foul on a drive and made both foul shots, and the Cavs held on when Mayo couldn’t find the range in the closing seconds.
The Bucks only dressed nine. Caron Butler had been expected to return, but missed his 12th straight game with a sore right knee. It’s been that kind of season for Milwaukee, which was also without Larry Sanders (broken hand), Gary Neal (plantar fasciitis), Ersan Ilyasova (sprained ankle), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery) and Zaza Pachulia (fractured foot).
Although under-manned, the Bucks gave the Cavs all they could handle.
Jack’s 3-pointer gave the Cavs an 80-72 lead, but the Bucks battled back and tied it at 92-92 on Henson’s reverse layup with 3:45 remaining.
The Cavs were without guard Dion Waiters (wrist) and rookie Anthony Bennett (illness).