LOS ANGELES—Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Chicago Bulls beat short-handed NBA champion Cavaliers 106-94 in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Butler, coming off a 52-point performance in a win over Charlotte on Monday, struggled to find is groove early, scoring just three points in the first half.
But the Bulls roared back from their slow start against a Cavs team ravaged by an array of ailments and injuries.
Cavs superstar LeBron James was fighting the flu in the matchup with his former Miami teammate Dwyane Wade.
Channing Frye also played despite feeling ill, Kyrie Irving missed a third straight game with a troublesome hamstring, and Kevin Love was absent as he continued to battle debilitating effects of food poisoning.
In New York, Giannis Antetokounmpo drained a step-back jumper as time expired to lift the Milwaukee Bucks to a 105-104 NBA victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Milwaukee’s standout Greek forward made the first game-winning shot of his 3 1/2-year NBA career.
He posted his 16th double-double of the season with 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks, who improved to 18-16.
His streak of 13 straight games with 20 or more points is the longest by a Milwaukee player since Michael Redd had 14 in a row in 2006.
Lance Thomas did all he could to defend the shot, but after dribbling through traffic and turning, Antetokounmpo managed to make some space and seal the win for a Bucks team that had battled back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.
“I work on that shot a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was patient. I knew I could shoot the ball over the top of anybody at any time. I wanted to make sure I took the last shot.”
Antetokounmpo’s teammates mobbed him in celebration, and Bucks coach Jason Kidd said the final moment was a team effort.
“The guy who makes the shot gets all the credit, but passing the ball, getting the ball to Giannis is important,” Kidd said.
“He (Antetokounmpo) is going to play thousands of games so he is going to have thousands of opportunities to hit game-winners. Tonight, I thought he got to his strength and he took his time. It wasn’t a rushed shot. It shows his growth.”
Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. He came up with a huge defensive play with eight seconds remaining, slapping Derrick Rose’s inbounds pass off the Knicks star’s leg to set up Milwaukee’s final possession.
Officials initially called the ball out of bounds off the Bucks, but reversed that decision after a video review.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points and 11 rebounds, but the Knicks, who were without injured big man Kristaps Porzingis for a third straight game, lost their sixth straight.
Rose and Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 15 points each for the Knicks, who have allowed at least 100 points in the six defeats.
Greg Monroe, whose free throw with 33 seconds remaining pulled the Bucks within 104-103, contributed 18 points and nine rebounds.
It looked like the Bulls might let a great chance against the weakened Eastern conference leaders go begging when they fell into a quick 15-2 hole.
But they battled back to lead by as many as 17.
Six Bulls players scored in double figures. That included Taj Gibson, who connected on nine of 10 shots from the floor to score 18 points, Michael Carter-Williams with 13 and Wade with 10.
Reserve Doug McDermott chipped in 17 points and Nikola Mirotic scored 16.
James finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes. He gave the Cavs faithful a scare when he came down awkwardly on one ankle in the third quarter, but appeared to walk it off.
Two baskets from James had pulled the Cavs within 89-88 midway through the fourth quarter when Butler drew an offensive foul from the superstar as he attempted another drive.
Butler then nailed a three-pointer at the other end to extend Chicago’s lead and the Cavs would get no closer.
After starting the night one-for-eight from three-point range, the Bulls finished with a season-high 13 three-pointers.
They beat the Cavs for the second time this season after a 111-105 victory on December 2 – the last time the Cavaliers had dropped a decision.