Bucks build early lead, hold off Clippers
MILWAUKEE--The Milwaukee Bucks can beat any team in the NBA when they keep the ball moving, even a star-studded playoff contender like the Los Angeles Clippers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and eight assists, and the Bucks finished strong after nearly squandering an early 23-point lead in in a 112-101 victory over the turnover-prone Clippers on Friday night.
Antetokounmpo was one of three Bucks with at least eight assists. Milwaukee tried to beat the Clippers down the floor in transition and made the extra pass in halfcourt sets in accumulating 35 assists on 44 baskets.
"When the ball is moving like that and you’ve got that many assists, it’s some good shots," said center Greg Monroe, who also had 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
Crisp passing, opportunistic defense and the Clippers’ sloppy play allowed the Bucks to persevere in spite of watching their early edge dwindle to 77-74 late in the third quarter following four 3s in the period by Chris Paul. He finished with 21 points, five assists and four turnovers.
The Bucks reasserted control with a 15-2 run for a 92-76 lead with about 9 minutes left, capped by Antetokounmpo’s driving dunk past Blake Griffin, and Jason Terry’s open 3 from the corner.
Milwaukee also used a 20-2 run over the final 4:33 of the first quarter to open a 19-point lead at halftime.
Fighting to stay in the playoff picture, the Bucks played with a sense of urgency that was missing in a lackluster home loss to Denver on Wednesday night. Guard Malcolm Brogdon said coach Jason Kidd drove home the point in part by making the team run a lot in practice on Thursday.
"I thought their intent, their energy, their focus and the carry-over to tonight was very good," Kidd said.
Mistakes crippled the Clippers throughout the night. Los Angeles had a season-high 23 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
"We gave a young team confidence by turning it over," coach Doc Rivers said.