Bucks rout Suns to snap 5-game losing streak

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PHOENIX (AP) — Milwaukee couldn’t stop Devin Booker for seven spectacular minutes. The Phoenix Suns couldn’t stop the Bucks all night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points to lead six Milwaukee players in double figures and the Bucks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 137-112 victory over the Suns on Saturday, their highest-scoring game of the season.

“I thought Giannis set the tone for us,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s why he’s an All-Star. He understands the moment. He set the tone early and everybody has to follow.”

Booker, whose 20-foot bank shot at the buzzer beat the Kings in Sacramento on Friday night, scored 31 points for the Suns, 27 during a blistering final 7:13 of the first half.

The Bucks, coming off a Friday night loss at Denver, shredded the Suns’ defense, shooting 63 percent while setting season highs for most points in a quarter, half and game. Milwaukee scored 74 points in the paint to the Suns’ 42.

“This is what we do. We score in the paint,” Antetokounmpo said. “We try to go to our strength as much as possible. It feels good going to your strength.”

Ex-Sun Mirza Teletovic added 19 points and Jabari Parker had 18 for the Bucks in just their second win in the last 12 games. The victory came in the final stop on a five-game road trip.

“We were just hungry to get a win,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were struggling.”

Rookie Marquese Chriss scored a career-high 27 points for Phoenix.

Booker scored 27 of the Suns’ final 33 points in the first half, including his team’s last 17 to cut what had been a 25-point Milwaukee lead to 74-66 at the break.

But the heroics ended there. Booker didn’t make another field goal, going 0 for 6 in the second half.

The Bucks methodically padded their lead in the third quarter, going up 92-76 on Parker’s breakaway dunk with 4:35 left.

Chriss’ three-point play sliced the lead to 104-92 with 10:59 to play, but Milwaukee ran off the next eight points to blow open a 112-92 advantage.

Booker, a 20-year-old second-year guard, was 9-of-11 shooting in the second quarter, including 5 of 5 on 3s.

“It’s just that zone,” Booker said. “If you play basketball long enough, a lot of people get in that zone. It would have been better if it had lasted longer, the whole game, we could have come out with a win, but we didn’t.”

Suns coach Earl Watson called Booker “a player who, during that stretch, reminded me of Kobe.”

Other than that second-quarter outburst, though, Booker was 0-for-8 shooting.

BOOK `EM

Booker’s barrage was one point shy of the franchise-record 28 he scored in the fourth quarter of a loss to Dallas in Mexico City.

Along the way, he became the youngest player to score at least 20 points in 16 consecutive games. Booker did it at 20 years, 97 days. His 16-game streak is the second-longest by any first- or second-year player in the last 20 seasons. Vince Carter had a 23-game run in 1999-2000.

TIP INS

Bucks: Milwaukee snapped a seven-game road losing streak. … The Bucks shot 77 percent (17 for 22) in the first quarter. … Milwaukee has won four of its last five in Phoenix and three straight overall against the Suns.

Suns: The 137 points were one shy of the most allowed in a game by Phoenix this season. … Before Booker’s 28- and 27-point quarters this season, the Phoenix franchise record for points in a quarter was 26 by Stephon Marbury. … The Suns’ franchise record for consecutive 20-point games is 21 by Tom Chambers.

 

Sacramento King’s Ty Lawson denies violating DUI probation

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DENVER (AP) — Sacramento Kings point guard Ty Lawson has denied that he violated his probation in a Colorado drunken driving case by drinking and failing to complete community service.

Lawson and his attorney Harvey Steinberg made the assertion Thursday during a brief appearance in a Denver courtroom. In addition, Steinberg said Lawson wanted his vehicle equipped with an interlock device that would test him for alcohol consumption so he could prove he’s not drinking.

The judge agreed and plans to hold a hearing in May before deciding whether the former Denver Nugget should get a more severe punishment.

Probation officials allege Lawson tested positive for alcohol three times in the past six months.

He was arrested twice on drunken driving charges in 2015, first in Denver and then in Los Angeles.

Shocking news: Carmelo Anthony still doesn’t like triangle offense, wishes they played previous way

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Can we just start another Triangle vs. pace-and-space argument with the obvious: It doesn’t matter what offense the Knicks run when their defense is this bad.

New York has the fifth worst defensive rating in the NBA this season, and it’s been slightly worse since the All-Star break. The Knicks as a team don’t show much effort on that end of the court, they are the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA, and they are fourth worst at creating turnovers. If you don’t get stops and just try to outscore teams, even if your offense is good you don’t win consistently.

Whew. Okay. All that said, the Knicks offense isn’t that good, it’s been pedestrian most of the season. There is talent there — Carmelo Anthony can still get buckets, Kristaps Porzingis is a rising star and scoring machine, Derrick Rose has his moments, and there are role players who can knock down shots. Part of the problem has been the push-and-pull between Phil Jackson (with friend Kurt Rambis as an assistant coach) pushing for the triangle, vs. coach Jeff Hornacek wanting to run a more modern offense. Right now the pendulum has swung back toward the triangle, with that set to be the offense next season.

In a surprise to nobody, Anthony prefers the pace-and-space style offense, and wish the team would just stick with just one offense, as he told the New York Post.

“Early in the season, we were winning games, went on a little winning streak we had. We were playing a certain way. We went away from that, started playing another way. Everybody was trying to figure out: Should we go back to the way we were playing, or try to do something different?…

“I thought earlier we were playing faster and more free-flow throughout the course of the game,’’ Anthony said. “We kind of slowed down, started settling it down. Not as fast. The pace slowed down for us — something we had to make an adjustment on the fly with limited practice time, in the course of a game. Once you get into the season, it’s hard to readjust a whole system.”

Anthony may not need to worry about the Knicks offense next fall as he may well not be with the team.

The question for the Knicks is, how many free agents can they draw willing to play in the triangle? Of course money talks, but guys with options will consider the system and how they fit in it.

Spain’s national coach said both Gasol brothers, Ibaka, Mirotic all want to play in EuroBasket

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Spain is the defending EuroBasket champions, the best team in Europe (they won the Bronze medal in Rio after two consecutive silver medal Olympics). Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the talent pool: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Nicola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, and a host of top international players who were in the NBA (Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos-Navarro, and on down the line).

Spain could bring a loaded team to the tournament, their coach Sergio Scariolo said in a radio interview, transcribed at FIBA.com.

“Pau has also told me he’s coming,” Scariolo said. “All of them want to see how they finish the season. For them to say that they’re looking forward to coming and asking what we’re going to do is a first good step, but then we have to wait and see how they end the season – the physical status of those that have to take part in the play-offs. We have to wait until then to have a definite idea but the pre-disposition of all of the players is very good.”

“We’ll begin training on 28 July and we’ll have to change our way of playing with respect to the last two years when Marc hasn’t been here,” Scariolo said. “We’ll have to incorporate him. It’s an important readjustment and there are many things that we’re working on.”

“(Nikola) Mirotic and (Serge) Ibaka have confirmed their availability,” Scariolo said to Onda Cero radio. “Obviously there is a different status and situation, but all of the players have confirmed to me their availability, although with certain provisos. Each has his own circumstances and own situation, but the availability of all is very good.”

Scariolo will have to choose between Mirotic and Ibaka if both want to play, they are both naturalized Spanish citizens, and only one of those can be on the roster.

That said, Spain heads into EuroBasket this summer as the team to beat. So long as all those players decide they are healthy enough to play.

Stan Van Gundy on slumping Pistons: “We’re just bad all the way around”

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If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Pistons would be out golfing. Or fishing. Or partying in Cabo. The point is, they would not be playing.

Which is stunning — this was a 44-win team a year ago that seemed on the rise and is anchored by Andre Drummond in the paint. This year they’re four games below .500 and lost five of their last six, including back-to-back losses to the Nets and Bulls the last two days. In the month of March, the Pistons have been outscored by  4.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now tied with the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Heat for the last playoff slot in the East.

Stan Van Gundy, you’re coach and GM in Detroit, what do you think of all this? (Via ESPN’s Nick Friedell)

“The message I gave them is, ‘Look, we got 10 games left,” he said. “And if we don’t change the way we’re playing, this is going to get really, really ugly.

“We didn’t defend at any point in the second half. We didn’t defend much in the first half, either. Just really disappointing. We were 33-33, got tied, back to .500 after that New York game [on March 11], ran into a buzz saw in Cleveland [three nights later], and that’s it. We haven’t bounced back. It’s like we took that one hit and have not recovered at all. Have not played a decent game since then. This is six bad games in a row.”

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of life in us, and we got to find some by Friday,” Van Gundy added. “It’s just not one position, either. We’re just not playing. We’re not. We’re just bad all the way around.”

The Pistons have what should be winnable games against Orlando and New York coming up on the road, followed by an important matchup next Tuesday against Miami. Detroit needs wins now, because their schedule the rest of the way is about as tough as Miami’s, but Chicago has a soft finish to the season that could see them string together wins (maybe, Chicago has its own issues).

Whatever happens the final 10 games, Van Gundy and his team have some serious assessing to do this summer, some trades to make, they need to figure out what works and go with it. Because this season did not work.