Is it time to take the Cleveland Cavaliers seriously as Eastern Conference contenders? Or at least as a team that could finish as the East's top seed? They and the Milwaukee Bucks are battling for that spot with a few other teams as they meet for the third time this season Wednesday night in Cleveland. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to play, but teammate Grayson Allen is suspended. Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is in doubt. Milwaukee is -4.5 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Giannis missed Saturday's 133-127 win over Sacramento with right knee soreness, but in reality the Bucks were resting him in the second of a back-to-back against an opponent they knew they could beat without the two-time MVP. Wednesday's game is not part of a B2B. The Bucks are now 14-0 this season when scoring at last 120 points.
Antetokounmpo (28.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 6.0 apg) is one of just two players in the NBA averaging 25/10/5 this season, along with the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic. Of course, Jokic won the MVP last season. Steph Curry is currently the +230 favorite for MVP but Giannis has nearly pulled even at +260 with Jokic and Joel Embiid both +450.
As for Grayson Allen (11.8 ppg), he missed Saturday's win with a knee injury and will serve his one-game suspension Wednesday for a flagrant-2 foul on Alex Caruso during Friday's win over the Bulls that resulted in Caruso suffering a fractured wrist. Fellow guard Wesley Matthews banged his knee Saturday and also will sit.
The Cavs' Jarrett Allen is one of the NBA's most improved players this season, averaging 16.3 points and 11.0 rebounds. He has 25 double-doubles, and the Cavs are 20-5 when he does, already matching his total from all of last season. Allen missed Monday's win over the Knicks with a non-COVID illness and wasn't at practice Tuesday, so his status is up in the air.
The Bucks and Cavs have split two meetings in Milwaukee this season and Cleveland is on a three-game home losing streak in the series. Giannis missed the Bucks' 119-90 loss on Dec. 18. Milwaukee also was without Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Matthews, Grayson Allen and Bobby Portis. Jarrett Allen is averaging 19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in the two games.
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