MILWAUKEE — O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal put on a long-range shooting display, but it was Caron Butler’s little 2-foot tip-in that made the difference for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler rebounded a miss by Mayo with 24.8 seconds left for the go-ahead basket that halted a 13-point run by the Cleveland Cavaliers, propelling the short-handed Bucks to a 109-104 victory Wednesday night.
“I’ve been around long enough,” Butler said. “I just know a play’s not over at the end of the game, that’s when guys kind of put their guard down a little bit. I saw a great opportunity to sneak in there and put my hand on the ball.”
Mayo scored 28 points, including six 3-pointers, and Neal, who added four 3-pointers, scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks salvaged a victory after seeing a double-digit lead slip away in the final three minutes.
Milwaukee, already without its top two point guards — Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour — also played without forward Ersan Ilyasova and center Larry Sanders. Ilyasova was out with a sore right ankle while Sanders was out with a sprained right thumb, injured in a weekend off-court incident that is being investigated, the Bucks said in a statement.
“We were short-handed with no Larry Sanders, no Ersan, Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “For those guys to come out and play like they did, I am very proud of them. I am very proud to coach this group. We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity since the beginning of training camp, dealing with injuries and guys being out. We beat a very good basketball team tonight in Cleveland.”
The Bucks, who used only eight players, opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 94-81 lead, but Kyrie Irving scored 10 consecutive points to fuel a 13-point run that put the Cavaliers up 104-103.
After Butler’s tip put the Bucks up 105-104, Irving dribbled off his foot and out of bounds. Mayo added four free throws in the closing seconds.
“Crucial turnover by me at the end and it kind of stopped that,” said Irving, who led Cleveland with 29 points. “A missed shot by me as well. It starts on the defensive end early in the game. We’ve just got to get stops early, so we’re not in that predicament going into the fourth quarter.”
Neither team put on a defensive clinic in the first half that ended with the Bucks leading 55-53.
Cleveland, which entered the game shooting 40.2 percent from the field, shot 56.4 percent in the first half, making 22 of 39 shots. The Bucks, who entered the game shooting 43.8 percent, made 20 of 36 (55.6 percent).
“O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal are combined 10 for 12 from the 3-point line and we keep telling our guys to get up in them,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “Make them drive, make them drive. No air space, no air space. Make them drive, make them drive. But we continue to close short and allow them to shoot 3s. It is unacceptable.”
Injuries forced Bucks rookie Nate Wolters, a second-round draft pick out of South Dakota State, to play 33 minutes. Wolters, who has played at least 29 minutes in each game, finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“He’s very poised,” Mayo said. “I think we’ve all seen that from day one. I don’t think we thought he was going to be put in the hot seat that fast, but like I told him, ‘Welcome to the NBA.’ If you’re ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
Former Bucks G Michael Redd officially announced his retirement Wednesday night and addressed the crowd from center court between the first and second quarters. Redd, the 43rd pick out of Ohio State in 2000, played 11 seasons with the Bucks before finishing his career with Phoenix in 2011-12. Redd, who holds the Bucks’ record with 57 points in a game, averaged better than 21 points per game for six consecutive seasons before tearing an ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2009-10 and then again the following season.
* Cavaliers F Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, connected on a 3-pointer with 9:46 left in the first half for his first NBA basket after starting the season 0 for 15 from the field.
* Ilyasova, who missed most of the preseason with a sprained right ankle, was not in uniform due to soreness in the ankle.