Ersan Ilyasova

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo score 37 points in 21 minutes as Bucks top Knicks

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MILWAUKEE  — Giannis Antetokounmpo needed only 21 minutes on the court to do plenty of damage, scoring 37 points and leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 128-102 rout of the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.

Antetokounmpo did not play in the fourth quarter after the Bucks built a 32-point lead entering the final period on the way to sweeping the three-game season series with the Knicks.

Khris Middleton added 17 points and Ersan Ilyasova had 14 points and seven rebounds for Milwaukee, which led by as many as 35 and improved its record to an NBA-best 36-6.

Julius Randle had 25 points and 15 rebounds to pace the Knicks (11-30), and rookie R.J. Barrett added 22 points. Bobby Portis had 20 off the bench.

Antetokounmpo scored on a nifty drive and followed with a 3-pointer as part of a 10-0 run that gave the Bucks a 39-23 advantage early in the second quarter.

Milwaukee outscored New York 36-17 in the period to grab a 65-40 halftime lead. Antetokounmpo finished the half with 20 points and eight rebounds.

Milwaukee extended the margin in the third quarter as Antetokounmpo had 17 points, including nine straight during one stretch. The Bucks converted a five-point play when Knicks guard Elfrid Payton received two technical fouls and was ejected with 6:58 left in the quarter.

Middleton sank the two technical free throws and Antetokounmpo hit all three foul shots after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.

No Giannis Antetokounmpo, no problem as Bucks win 16th straight

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MILWAUKEE — No Giannis was no problem for the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out but the Bucks kept on rolling, getting 29 points from Eric Bledsoe and 24 from Khris Middleton in a 127-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans that extended their winning streak to 16 games.

The Bucks (22-3) tied the second-longest winning streak in franchise history and moved closer to the franchise record of 20 set during the team’s 1970-71 championship season.

Antetokounmpo sat out with a right quad tendon injury, missing his first game this season. He has missed time with concerns about overuse injuries in his leg before.

Antetokounmpo did not participate in the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning and quickly was ruled out.

“I don’t think we know exactly when it happened,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “This morning the soreness was such that he was not able to play tonight. The severity of it, we’re hoping it’s not too serious.

“We’ll take it day by day and we’re always going to err on the side of caution.”

The rest of the Bucks stepped up.

“I think we took a little more ownership of what’s going on out there,” Middleton said. “When Giannis is out there, he draws such a huge crowd that we play through him a lot. Without him tonight, we know we have to do a little bit more.

“It was a great test; they play with a fast pace just like us. I think we did a great job.”

Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova, starting in place of Antetokounmpo, had a season-high 18 points and nine rebounds. George Hill contributed 13 points off the bench.

Bledsoe drove aggressively and scored 11 points in the third quarter to answer a Pelicans rally, and he finished making a season-high five 3-pointers and going 10 for 13 from the field while adding six assists.

“I try to get in the paint as much as possible,” Bledsoe said. “If I don’t have a shot, I kick it out to my teammates and trust them to make the right play.”

New Orleans (6-19) lost its 10th straight game despite a season-high 31 points from J.J. Redick. Brandon Ingram had 25 points and 10 rebounds and point guard Jrue Holiday added 21 points.

A frustrated Redick spoke up in the locker room at halftime, when New Orleans trailed by 23 points.

“It’s not like this is the first time we’ve had a talk at halftime,” Redick said. “I would say emotionally sometimes you reach a tipping point. That’s the timing of that.”

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said his team needs to communicate better.

“It’s the quietest group I’ve ever been around, even on the plane and in the meal room,” Gentry said. “But we do have to get them talking on the court and have them communicate on the court.

“When we do, we’re pretty solid. I thought we did a good job in the second half of communicating. But when you’re trying to come back from 25 to-28-point deficits, the least little thing is going to have a glaring effect.”

The Bucks hit six of their first eight attempts from 3-point range, including 3 of 3 by Bledsoe, to take a 28-12 lead.

Milwaukee led by 23 points in the opening quarter before New Orleans closed the period on an 8-0 spurt to pull within 35-20.

The Bucks used a 17-0 run to grab a 56-28 lead in the second quarter before settling for a 69-46 halftime margin. Middleton and Bledsoe each had 13 points and Ilyasova and Hill added 11 apiece.

The Pelicans outscored the Bucks 40-36 in the third quarter.

New Orleans pulled within 120-108 with 2:51 remaining but Middleton hit a pair of jumpers to put the Bucks safely ahead.

Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrates his birthday by scoring 27, leading Bucks in rout Clippers

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their 14th straight victory, a 119-91 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

Antetokounmpo, on his 25th birthday, made 11 of 20 shots and recorded his 21st double-double of the season.

“I was 25 once, but I wasn’t that good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after joking that he wanted to see Antetokounmpo’s birth certificate.

Antetokounmpo left the game with Milwaukee ahead by 36 with 8:56 to play. While he sat, the Milwaukee crowd started “happy birthday” chants for their star — and he loved it.

The Bucks led by as many as 41 and extended their longest winning streak since winning 16 consecutive games over two seasons in 1973.

Khris Middleton added 17 points and Pat Connaughton and Ersan Ilyasova each scored 13 off the bench for Milwaukee.

Rivers pulled all of his starters out of the game with the Bucks leading 101-67 with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. The group exited to the chant of “Overrated! Overrated!” from the Milwaukee crowd.

Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and Paul George added 13 for the Clippers.

JaMychal Green missed his second straight game for Los Angeles after suffering a bruised tailbone last Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Team USA survives Turkey in OT

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It wasn’t overwhelming. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even injury-free.

But Team USA avoided the worst possible embarrassment – a loss – with a 93-92 overtime win over Turkey on Tuesday. The Americans will advance to the second round of the 32-team FIBA World Cup.

Khris Middleton made the game-winning free throws with 2.1 seconds left, extending the United States’ 55-tournament-game winning streak with NBA players.

The game was tense late, Turkey pressing for the upset and Team USA trying to avoid a historic defeat. Turkey missed all four of its free throws in the final 10 seconds. After the fourth miss, Jayson Tatum grabbed the defensive rebound and pushed ahead. As he pressured the rim, Tatum delivered a clean pass to Middleton to set-up the winning free throws.

Unfortunately, Tatum also hurt himself on the play. Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The United States already looked vulnerable, especially after an exhibition loss to Australia. This U.S. roster doesn’t hold up to traditional standards. Turkey wasn’t even among the top threats! The Americans could lose to any reasonable competitor.

That probably won’t be Japan on Thursday, when Team USA closes Group E play. The United States and the Turkey-Czech Republic winner will advance.

Against Turkey, the U.S. shot just 35% on 2-pointers. The Americans’ highest-volume shooters – Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and Tatum – combined to shoot 11-for-37 overall.

Team USA overcame that inefficiency with plenty of effort. The United State grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to 34 Turkey defensive rebounds. Tatum (11 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks) was particularly active.

However, Tatum made just 2-of-3 free throws with 0.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending the game to overtime rather than giving the U.S. a regulation win.

It appeared Turkey would take advantage of the extra time. Turkey had been gaining momentum while overcoming a 15-point lead and even led by five with three minutes left. Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (26 points and 14 rebounds) was excellent. Turkey just played with more chemistry, shooting and passing more decisively and getting better looks as a result.

But those four missed free late are haunting. And the U.S. did just enough to take advantage.

Report: Bucks re-signing George Hill for three years, $29 million

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The Bucks are losing starting combo guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers.

Their replacement is coming from within – George Hill.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Bucks don’t currently project to have enough cap room to make this signing, but there are several ways to get there. Among the possibilities:

  • Milwaukee trades Ersan Ilyasova
  • Milwaukee trades Jon Leuer
  • Milwaukee stretches Leuer
  • Milwaukee renounces the trade exception for Brogdon (which will be for half his starting salary)
  • Brook Lopez has unlikely bonuses in his contract that would create extra cap flexibility
  • Hill has unlikely bonuses in his contract that would create extra cap flexibility
  • Lopez and Hill’s deals aren’t worth the precise amounts reported

One move the Bucks can’t make: Stretching Hill, whom they’re waiving before re-signing. They wouldn’t be allowed to re-sign him.

Stretching Leuer appears most likely, but wouldn’t be enough alone. So keep an eye on the other possibilities.

Hill played exceptionally well in the playoffs. Keeping him will allow Milwaukee – which is also re-signing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez – to maintain continuity. But Hill is also 33. He won’t remain as productive as he was last postseason.

Overall, this is an OK signing for a team trying to win now. Perhaps importantly to Bucks ownership, it’s also a cheaper route than retaining Brogdon.