With LeBron James doing lots of everything, the other Cavaliers tend to get overshadowed. It’s tough, though, to ignore the early productivity from Zydrunas Ilgauskas.


With preview capsule

With LeBron James doing lots of everything, the other Cavaliers tend to get overshadowed. It’s tough, though, to ignore the early productivity from Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

The 7-foot-3 center easily has been the team’s second-most consistent player behind James, handling a heavy work load and averaging a double-double.

“He is playing great basketball,” James said. “He is defending the best he has in a long time.”

With the Cavs shorthanded up front, Ilgauskas is handling tough defensive assignments in the post and consistently putting up big numbers. He has seven double-doubles in 10 games, equaling his best 10-game stretch since 1997-98.

“He always comes into camp ready to go and it was no different this year,” Cavs Head Coach Mike Brown said. “He’s really stepping in and knocking down the 15- to 17-foot shot, he’s trying to rebound his behind off, and then he’s working defensively. I’m happy with the way he’s played.”

Ilgauskas averages 16.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, and leads the NBA with 4.9 offensive rebounds a game.

He enters tonight’s 7 p.m. home game against Milwaukee after off one of his strongest performances. In a 99-94 win over Utah Friday, Ilgauskas had 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a season-high six blocks.

With the game on the line, he knocked down two big shots in the final minutes. He stepped out to hit a 19-footer from the right wing and made a 15-footer from the right baseline. Both shots came on passes from James.

“I think Z is feeding off of guys double-teaming me,” James said. “Right now he is shooting the outside shot at an unbelievable efficiency. I get a double team and I see Z open and I see the guy rotating on defense. He’s (7-3); you aren’t going to block his shot.”

Brown said the combination of James and Ilgauskas at the top of their game creates nightmares for defense.

“Opponents are going to have a tough time because he is (7-3),” Brown said. “If you try to close out on LeBron, he is going to throw it over the top of the defense to Z, and he is going to get a good look.”

And with Ilgauskas shooting 50 percent from the floor, he is taking advantage.

“He’s in his comfort level,” James said of Ilgauskas at the end of the team’s trip West a week ago.

“When he gets the outside jumper going, it’s easier for him in the post.”

Big minutes

About the only concern with Ilgauskas is his minutes. With forward Anderson Varejao still holding out and forward Donyell Marshall out since the third game with a wrist injury, Ilgauskas is averaging nearly 34 minutes a game. He averaged 27.3 minutes last year, 29.1 for his career.

Brown said ideally, Ilgauskas would play around 32 minutes.

“Anything above that, and I didn’t do a good job managing his minutes ... which has happened plenty of times,” Brown said.

Running free

The 20 fastbreak points by the Cavs on Friday were their most since they got 23 in transition vs. the Knicks in the season’s second game.

“We were able to score 20 fastbreak points because we got stops,” Brown said. “If we get stops, hey, I want our guys to get out and run. We have athletes and we have shooters that can do some nice things in transition.”

Bench support

Ira Newble continues to make the most of his opportunities. The 6-7 forward didn’t put up a lot of numbers in his 22 1/2 minutes against Utah (four points, one rebound), but he played defense and hustled.

“Ira was huge coming off the bench with his energy, defending and getting out in transition and trying to do all the little things,” Brown said.

Newble’s willingness to hit the floor to grab a loose ball led to a big bucket late. Newble just had his shot blocked, but got a hand on Utah’s outlet pass, then dove to the floor to secure the ball for a steal. James hit a deep 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for an 85-81 lead with 3:39 left.

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail chris.beaven@cantonrep.com

BUCKS VS. CAVALIERS PREVIEW CAPSULE

WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena

WHEN: Tonight, 7

TV: FSN Ohio

RADIO: WHBC-AM 1480, WQKT-FM 104.5, WAKR-AM 1590, WTAM-AM 1100, WJER-AM 1450

NOTABLE: Both teams come in rested, the Cavs having been off since Friday and the Bucks since Saturday. ... The Cavs have trailed entering the fourth quarter of all 10 games, the only team in the league to never take a lead into the final quarter. While the Cavs are 5-5 when trailing after three quarters, the rest of the league is 23-107 in those situations. ... LeBron James leads the league in scoring (29.2), the Cavs in assists (8.0) and is third on the team in rebounding (7.8). ... Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16.0 ppg, 12.1 rpg) and Drew Gooden (14.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg) continue to be the the only teammates averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounding. Ilgauskas leads the NBA with 4.9 offensive rebounds per game. ... Daniel Gibson shoots 51.3 percent on 3-pointers and averages 11.6 points. ... Bucks (4-4) have won two straight, both at home, beating Memphis and Atlanta. ... Michael Redd leads Milwaukee in scoring at 22.8, but is shooting just 32.4 percent on 3-pointers. ... Andrew Bogut and Mo Williams each score 12.1 per game and lead the team in rebounding (9.0) and assists (6.5), respectively. ... Rookie 7-foot forward Yi Jianlian averages 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.75 blocks per game. He is shooting 41.6 percent from the floor.

UP NEXT: The Cavs visit Minnesota at 8 p.m. Wednesday.