Bucks win three straight heading to break
NEW YORK--Before heading off to play with the All-Stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo got a reminder of how good it feels to play with Khris Middleton.
Antetokounmpo scored 33 points in his final game before his All-Star debut, Middleton had his strongest performance since returning from a ruptured left hamstring and the Milwaukee Bucks sent the Brooklyn Nets to the break on a 14-game skid with a 129-125 victory Wednesday night.
Greg Monroe added 25 points and Middleton finished with 20 in his fourth game after missing the first 50. He made four free throws in the final 19 seconds as the Bucks won their third straight.
“It just shows how much we missed Khris in the close games coming down the stretch being able to put the ball in his hands,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought down the stretch we scored every time. Giannis, Khris, and then Giannis again.”
Monroe was 12 for 16 from the field after going 12 for 15 on Monday in a victory over Detroit. He has two straight 20-point games after just one previously this season.
Brook Lopez scored a season-high 36 points and tied his career high with eight blocks for the Nets. They have lost 16 straight at home.
“They’re like a herd coming at you and it’s forceful. It’s impressive,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said about the Bucks. “I think off the bat we didn’t bring a physicality. If you don’t bring a physicality against that athleticism it’s tough. You make it a jumping contest and that’s difficult.”
The Bucks led 95-82 after a 33-point third quarter, but Spencer Dinwiddie scored 15 of his season-high 19 in the fourth and the Nets got within two a few times. But Antetokounmpo, voted to start Sunday in New Orleans, had a basket with 47 seconds to play before Middleton closed it out from the line.
“Khris makes the game a lot easier,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s a ball handler. He can handle the ball, so it makes my job and (Matthew) Dellavedova’s job a lot easier.”