CLEVELAND -- This wasn't the way Anderson Varejao expected his season to go, but he's trying to make the most of his limited opportunities. He delivered a huge second half Thursday and was a key reason the Cleveland Cavaliers ended their brief two-game losing streak.
Varejao scored nine points in 11 minutes, LeBron James had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists while forward Kevin Love had 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Cavaliers' 115-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 33 points for the Bucks, who trailed by as many as 21 in the first half.
Varejao has battled injuries throughout his career and is out of the rotation now, buried in a deep frontcourt that includes Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. When Mozgov missed the second half with a strained right shoulder Thursday, Varejao stepped in running pick-and-roll with LeBron James and hitting elbow jumpers like the good old days. Varejao played a total of 14 minutes the last five games and already has more DNP-CDs this year (two) than he's had in the last 10 years.
"It's not easy. It's really tough because as a player you want to play, especially when you feel like you're not done, like you can still play," Varejao said. "The main thing is to stay ready and I was able to help the team."
The Cavs finished the game without four of their top eight rotation players. They started the night without starting point guard Kyrie Irving (knee surgery), starting shooting guard Iman Shumpert (wrist surgery) and backup Mo Williams, who was a surprise scratch with a sore right leg.
Matthew Dellavedova stepped in for Williams and registered a career-high 13 assists. Mozgov, who has been slowed by a problematic right knee, will be re-evaluated Friday and could have an MRI or X-ray.
"Andy really gave us a lift," coach David Blatt said. "Andy was one of the main reasons we won the game."
The Bucks trailed 63-42 on a dunk by Tristan Thompson late in the first half. Thompson finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
The Cavs spent the game's last nine-plus minutes in the bonus, while the Bucks didn't draw their first foul in the fourth quarter until 8:27 remained.
"We were in the bonus for them very early, so that put us behind," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "Especially if you're playing from behind, you can't give the team the opportunity to get to the free-throw line when they want to and that's what happened tonight."
After a few days of James publicly ripping his team's play and an uncomfortable 45-minute film session Wednesday that exposed a lot of what the Cavs have done wrong the last few games, Cleveland responded the way both James and coach David Blatt wanted -- at least in the first half.
The Cavs maintained a 63-48 lead at the half before nearly giving it all back. The Bucks missed just six shots in the third quarter while Antetokounmpo, Monroe and Middleton combined for 22 of their 31 points to trim the deficit to 86-79 entering the fourth, but they were crushed in rebounding 43-22.
It was a rare national television game for the Bucks, but Antetokounmpo wasn't fazed by it after beating the Cavaliers at home in double overtime last weekend.
"At home, we won against the best team in the world," he said. "The other night was like a playoff atmosphere, so I didn't think about being on (national television) at all."
The way Blatt and James have been talking the last few days, it would seem as if the Cavs have a losing record instead of their East-leading 9-3 mark. Both Blatt and James acknowledged, in their own ways, that it's hardly time to panic. But there were bad habits developing they want to squash now rather than later.
"I think our guys just understand and know that it's important for us to develop the habits and the attitude and the approach, make that part of us -- like it was last year from midseason on," Blatt said. "It's not something you turn off and on, and I just think they recognize the importance of that. It's an all-the-time thing, not a sometimes thing or when we feel like we need it.
"There are times during the year that you have to take stock and say hey, wait a minute, this needs to be better or this needs to be corrected. And this might be one of those times."
NOTES: Thursday marked the first time the Bucks played with a full roster of 15 healthy bodies. ... The Bucks were averaging 12.6 turnovers in victories compared with 17.3 turnovers in losses. Similarly, they're allowing just 93.2 points in wins compared with 110.5 points in losses. ... Cavs F Tristan Thompson appeared in his 300th consecutive game, the second-longest streak in the league behind the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan (332 entering Thursday). Thompson is the fourth Cavs player to appear in 300 straight games, according to Elias Sports Bureau, joining Jim Chones (361), Austin Carr (351) and Danny Ferry (301). ...Cavs G J.R. Smith had an X-ray on his right hand recently after it swelled up. Smith said it revealed a broken bone in the thumb he never knew he had. It healed on its own and Smith said team doctors don't know when it occurred or how long ago, but it still swells up occasionally when the hand gets hit.