Bucks 99, Pistons 95; Last shots

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks won their fourth consecutive game Wednesday night 99-95 over the Detroit Pistons. Milwaukee was led by forward Khris Middleton with 27 points on the evening. Detroit got a strong effort from guard Avery Bradley who had a game-high 28 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have a game that he has been accustomed to this year, as he spent much of the night in foul trouble. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the floor. Guard Eric Bledsoe was scoreless in the first half, put poured in 14 second half points to help will Milwaukee to victory.

Here are 16 last shots for the 16 blocks by the Bucks:

1. In the first half, there was a stretch of five or six minutes where the Pistons fell apart. They allowed the Bucks to take the lead thanks to turnovers, blocked shots, and potentially a few missed called by officials. The Bucks took advantage, building their largest lead of the first half at 30-23.

2. During that stretch there were back-to-back possessions stretch that the Pistons looked out of sorts offensively. On the first possession they had a shot that the Pistons thought hit the rim and should have reset the shot clock before the ball went out of bounds last touched by Milwaukee guard DeAndre Liggins. It was ruled that it did not draw iron, and Detroit was forced to inbound the ball with two-tenths of a second remaining on the shot clock.

3. The following possession the Pistons attempted three shots, with the third being emphatically blocked out of bounds by Antetokounmpo. Detroit’s bench thought that the ball had already reached its apex and was on its way down. Guard Ish Smith was irate as well and picked up a technical foul. If Smith hadn’t picked up the technical foul, someone on the Pistons’ bench certainly would have earned it.

4. Eric Bledsoe is still searching to find himself back in game shape for the Bucks. While he’s still a threat anytime he steps on the floor for Milwaukee, it’s going to take some time for the team to thrive with him in the lineup. That sounds odd considering the team hasn’t lost yet while he’s been in uniform, but this group hasn’t scratched the surface of their potential.

5. After a first half where he didn’t score, Bledsoe came up big for Milwaukee in the second half. He opened the third quarter with four quick points as part of a 10-3 run to build a seven point lead for the Bucks. In the fourth quarter he hit the shot that gave Milwaukee the lead back with 42.5 seconds remaining, breaking a 93-93 tie. He was fouled on the next possession and knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to four. Bledsoe had eight points in the final period.

6. Middleton was fantastic down the stretch for Milwaukee as well. He, like Bledsoe, had eight points in the fourth quarter. While Detroit was fighting back after starting the period down 13, Middleton was able to keep the Pistons at bay at times.

7. Wednesday was the sixth time this season he’s scored 20 or more points on the season. He did so in a team high 40 minutes. He’s been an improved part of the team lately, and been much more consistent than he was at the start of the season.

8. “[I’m] just playing hard. That’s what I noticed over the first couple of games. I don’t think I was playing hard enough,” Middleton said following the win. “I talked to some coaches, my teammates, [Kevin Garnett] also came in and the common things that most of the guys were saying was that [I] needed to play harder. I think it was true. I was thinking too much about other stuff. Now, I just feel like I’m playing hard and not worrying about everything else, which has been working out.”

9. Milwaukee won the game in a fashion the Bucks haven’t shown they’ve been capable of doing so far this season, with a relatively poor performance from Antetokounmpo. He finished the night with 21 points, six rebounds, and a single assist in nearly 35 minutes. While Antetokounmpo’s line would be taken as an above average night for most NBA players, it’s below the standard he’s set for himself this season. He found himself in foul trouble for much of the night, eventually picking up his fifth foul with 3:33 left in the game. The bright side to his foul trouble was it forced head coach Jason Kidd to limit his minutes.

10. “I was trying to get his minutes down to under 35,” Kidd said. “We accomplished that together, Giannis and I. With him getting in foul trouble and me being able to take him out. We are running up his minutes a little bit too high this early in the season, so my goal was to get him under 35. He’s 22 years old. He’s going to make mistakes. Learning to stay out of foul trouble is something he has to get better at, but it ended up helping us tonight.”

11. Kidd was barely able to succeed at keeping Antetokounmpo under 35 minutes. He finished with 34 minutes and 55 seconds on the court, officially.

12. On the defensive end of the court, the Bucks did an outstanding job altering shots around the rim. They finished the night with 16 blocked shots, the highest total an NBA achieved this season. Part of that contributed to the Pistons shooting a higher percentage from behind the three-point line than inside of it.

13. Detroit was 15-of-48 inside the arc (31.2%) and 15-of-37 on three-pointers (40.5%). That’s an uncommon occurrence in the NBA, even in the three-point revolution that’s been experienced league-wide.

14. Milwaukee had two players with four blocks each, as Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker each had a huge impact around the rim. John Henson, Tony Snell, and Bledsoe all each had two apiece, and Liggins and Malcolm Brogdon had one rejection each.

15. It is worth noting that guard Matthew Dellavedova didn’t play for the Bucks with left knee tendinitis. His status is unknown moving forward.

16. The Bucks will be in action again on Saturday in Dallas against the Mavericks.

Report: Bucks remain on the “fringes” of Kyrie trade

If the Boston-Cleveland trade falls through for Kyrie Irving, the Bucks are one of several teams who still might have a shot at the All-Star.

The trade hasn’t been completed due to the Cleveland Cavaliers questions over Isaiah Thomas and his hip injury. The Bucks were one of the handful of teams that would be vying for Irving according to a report by ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

The Bucks have previously offered Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, and veteran Khris Middleton.

That trade was weighed heavily by the Cavaliers before  agreeing to terms with the Boston Celtics. According to Lowe, he believes if the Bucks threw in a future first round pick, that would ultimately get the deal done.

The Bucks are reluctant to throw in a first round pick, because they don’t believe Irving would likely sign long-term. Irving, 25, is entering the prime of his career and has two years left on his current contract.

Other teams in the mix if the deal doesn’t go through are the Denver Nuggets and the  Phoenix Suns

Turnovers, poor shooting hurt Milwaukee in Game 4 loss to Toronto

With their season seemingly on the line, the Toronto Raptors responded with an 87-76 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series on Saturday.

After not making a field goal in a blowout loss in Game 3 on Thursday night, Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan was the best player on the court, scoring 33 points, grabbing nine rebounds, handing out five assists and collecting four steals.

But Milwaukee didn’t lose the game on the defensive end. The series is tied at two games apiece because the Bucks couldn’t take care of the ball and couldn’t make a shot. Coach Jason Kidd’s team turned the ball over 20 times, including seven by Giannis Antetokounmpo, while shooting just 37 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Antetokounmpo had a series-low 14 points, while guard Khris Middleton could manage just 10 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Defensive specialist Tony Snell led the team with 19 points, including hitting all five of Milwaukee’s 3-pointers.

The loss gives Toronto home-court advantage back as the series now because a best-of-three, starting with Game 5 on Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

Bucks cruise to a 104-77 win over the Raptors in Game 3

Game 3 was no contest for the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, as they rolled over the third-seeded Toronto Raptors 104-77 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

From the opening tip the crowd inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center was roaring, and the Bucks responded in kind, outscoring the Raptors 57-30 in the first half on the way to their biggest margin of victory in a playoff game since 1984.

“We know they’re going to come back on Saturday afternoon ready, just like after (losing) game one,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of the Raptors. “Bu I thought the guys did everything we’ve prepared them to do. Defense is what we’ve always concentrated on and sharing the ball on the offensive end. The guys did that.”

Guard Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee, scoring 20 points and handing out seven assists, while forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and eight rebounds. Center Greg Monroe added 16 points off the bench for a Milwaukee squad that shot 52.7 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from beyond the arc.

As good as the Bucks were on offense, they were just as good, if not better, on the other end of the court. They limited the Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen to 21 combined points on 4 of 18 shooting, including the latter going 0 of 8, the first time he’s been held without a field goal in his playoff career.

The win gave Milwaukee its first 2-1 lead in a playoff series since 2001.

Game 4 is set for Saturday in Milwaukee. Tip time is at 2 p.m.

Milwaukee takes out Detroit 108-105 in overtime

The Milwaukee Bucks closed out the month of March in style, overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Detroit Pistons 108-105 in overtime on Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out nine assists, while Khris Middleton added 25 points. But it was the play of rookie Thon Maker that had everyone talking following a career-high 23 points from the first-round pick.

“Unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo said of the 7-foot-1 Maker. “The way he plays. The way he practices. The way he learns. The way he gets better every day. It’s unbelievable.”

Milwaukee led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter only to see the Pistons claw away and eventually retake the lead in the third quarter. Detroit built on that advantage and led by 10 with 4:58 remaining in the game. That’s when Antetokounmpo took charge, scoring 10 of Milwaukee’s next 12 points to help the game get to overtime tied at 95.

In the extra period, it was a pair of big 3-pointers that got Milwaukee across the line for the win. First, Maker drilled one with 1:58 left to take a three-point lead. Maker had some motivation to take – and make – the shot courtesy of Antetokounmpo.

“If you hesitate, I’m going to punch you,” Antetokounmpo told Fox Sports Wisconsin of his message for Maker. “So shoot the ball whenever you get it.”

The shot was big, but his offensive rebound less than a minute later proved to be the dagger the Bucks needed, as his tip out off a missed shot ended up in the hands of Middleton, who drilled the 3-pointer.

It was win No. 14 in the month of March, the most in a single month for the franchise since 1971, and it gave them the No. 5 playoff spot to themselves with just seven games remaining.

Milwaukee will take on Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Tony Snell’s 26 points lead Bucks over Hornets

CHARLOTTE — Tony Snell scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday night 118-108, maintaining Milwaukee’s position in the playoff race.

Snell’s 26 points came on 10-of-14 shooting and was backed up by 14 points and 10 rebounds by rookie Malcolm Brogdon. But their efforts were opened up by the combined 34 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

”It’s a credit to Giannis and Khris [Middleton],” Snell said. ”They draw a lot of attention and there was good ball movement. It was a good night.”

Milwaukee never trailed in the contest — one where the Bucks held an edge in nearly every statistical category aside from turnovers. They lost that battle 14-2. Milwaukee’s efficiency from the field (62.2 percent shooting) forced Charlotte to play from behind, where their three-point attempts were converted at a clip of just 25 percent (7-of-28).

The win not only allowed Milwaukee to hold onto a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with eight games to play, but it secured a series win over Charlotte for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.

Bucks continue to roll, beat Sacramento 116-98

Milwaukee continued its move up in the Eastern Conference playoff picture Wednesday night with a 116-98 win at Sacramento.

The game was the final one in a six-game road trip that the Bucks finished 4-2 on, leaving them tied for the No. 6 spot with Indiana and just a game back of the five-seed Atlanta with 11 games to go.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated a listless Kings squad, scoring a game-high 32 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out six assists as the Bucks won for a 10th time in their last 12 games.

Center Greg Monroe added 15 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Khris Middleton and Mirza Teletovic scored 13 points each.

Sacramento was paced by rookie Buddy Hield’s 21 points.

Milwaukee will now head back home to face Atlanta on Friday night, followed by a visit from the Chicago Bulls. Both teams are, like the Bucks, fighting for the final few playoff spots in the East.

Bucks hold off Trail Blazers for 93-90 win

PORTLAND, Ore. — Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 48 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Portland Trail Blazers 93-90 Tuesday night.

Damien Lillard’s game-tying three-point attempt with 6.4 seconds left ricocheted off the backboard to end a three-game winning streak for Portland. But for the Bucks, it was their ninth win in 11 games, keeping Milwaukee in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 12 games to play.

Middleton’s 26 points led the way for a Bucks team that was outscored in the third quarter 28-19. But Milwaukee rallied in what is a pivotal stretch for the Bucks — six straight road games.

”This shows how much we’ve grown over the season,” Middleton said. ”At this time last season we would’ve panicked but tonight and on this road trip we stayed with it and weathered the storm.”

The rebounding was evenly split 49-49, but where Milwaukee had its greatest advantage was three-point shooting. The Bucks converted on 43.8 percent (7-of-16), while the Trail Blazers were just 19 percent (4-of-21) from beyond the arc.

Three ejected as Bucks beat Lakers 107-103

LOS ANGELES — Greg Monroe, D’Angelo Russell, and Nick Young were all ejected during a third quarter scuffle, but the Milwaukee Bucks held on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-103.

In the third quarter, Nick Young responded to being fouled harder than he thought appropriate by shoving Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon. Greg Monroe defended his teammate by shoving Young, which got L.A.’s D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram involved. A Bucks security guard also got involved, which didn’t sit well with Lakers coach Luke Walton.

”If there’s nothing wrong with that, then I have no problem finding some people to hire on our staff  next time we get in a skirmish,” Walton said. ”The refs don’t say anything about that, and he puts his hands on one of our players. He works for them. He can touch [Milwaukee’s] players all he wants. Don’t touch my damn players. Because if that’s okay, I’m sure we can find a couple of people here in L.A. that want that job working for the Lakers, too.”

That exchange allowed the Lakers to go on a late run, but Khris Middleton scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Bucks out in front for their eighth win in nine games and solidify their spot in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has now evened up its record at 34-34 with a chance to earn its second winning season in 14 years. The win officially knocked the Lakers out of playoff contention, extending their franchise-record-long drought to four seasons without a postseason appearance. Their previous drought lasted just two seasons.

Giannis goes for 32 points in Milwaukee’s 104-93 win over the Knicks

The Milwaukee Bucks have caught fire.

Powered by 32 points and 13 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee got a 104-93 comeback victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night to claim its fourth straight win.

A pair of Courtney Lee free throws midway through the third quarter gave the Knicks a 12-point lead. But the Bucks closed the period on a 19-4 run — 16 of those points coming from either Antetokounmpo or center Greg Monroe — to take a three-point lead and they didn’t trail again.

Monroe finished with 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while Khris Middleton went for 18 points, including a 4 of 6 night from beyond the arc.

Derrick Rose led the way for the Knicks with 26 points.

The win left Milwaukee tied with the Miami Heat and a half-game back of Chicago and Detroit for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks will return to action on Friday when they host the Indiana Pacers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.