Red hot Bucks, wealthier Eric Bledsoe roll into matchup with Jazz

Getty Images

ASSOCIATED PRESS — Eric Bledsoe celebrated landing a $70 million extension with his highest-scoring game of the season.

The 29-year-old point guard will attempt to follow up the stellar showing one night later when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

Bledsoe agreed to the four-year extension on Friday afternoon and then recorded 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Milwaukee posted a 131-120 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to become the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot this season.

The Bucks closed the game with a 15-2 run to post their 10th straight road win, the longest single-season streak in franchise history.

“We stayed poised, stayed with our game plan and just doing what we’ve been doing all season,” Bledsoe told ESPN during a postgame television interview. “It was time for us to step up.”

The comeback gave the Bucks their seventh straight victory and 19th in the past 21 games.

That winning feeling — Milwaukee has an NBA-best 48-14 record — was a big factor in why Bledsoe passed up a shot to be an unrestricted free agent this summer by electing to stay with the Bucks.

“Right now, we have a great chemistry,” Bledsoe said. “I’m around a great group of guys, they are like brothers to me. They took me in with open arms last season and it is paying off right now, so why not?”

Bledsoe is averaging 15.9 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds in his second season with the Bucks after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns early last season.

“Beyond excited about Eric and what he’s done to date,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters prior to Friday’s game. “He’s certainly earned our appreciation and we’re glad he’s going to be with us for the next four years.”

Bledsoe was one of seven players who scored in double digits against the Lakers. The list included guard Malcolm Brogdon (21 points) along with forwards Khris Middleton (18) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (16 points, 15 rebounds).

Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 10 rebounds against Utah on Jan. 7 when the Bucks notched a 114-102 home win over the Jazz.

The victory was Milwaukee’s second straight against Utah after the Jazz prevailed in 21 of the previous 25 meetings.

Utah star guard Donovan Mitchell made six 3-pointers and scored 26 points in the January contest.

The Jazz have won three straight games and 17 of their last 23 after posting an impressive 111-104 road win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

Mitchell scored 24 points to reach the 20-point mark for the 21st time in the past 22 games.

Veteran swingman Kyle Korver matched his season-best of 22 points and hit 6 of 10 3-point attempts after being just 9 of 32 from long range over the previous nine contests.

Korver, who turns 38 on March 17, has played 39 games for Utah after being acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I think he’s made everybody a little better,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told reporters. “That’s hard to do across a spectrum — from the coaching staff to the players. He truly is a student of the game.”

Utah could be without point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring) for the second straight game.

Milwaukee is expected to sign veteran center Pau Gasol, who reached a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.