Bucks 128, Clippers 118: Last Word

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks cut their magic number to clinch the number one overall seed to two with a 128-118 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night.

Player of the game: Khris Middleton

Middleton scored a season-high 39 points, shooting 16-for-24 (66%) and hitting four of his seven three-point attempts. This is Middleton’s fifth game of his career scoring 35+ points and his third 30-point game of the season. Sometimes, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Middleton may be the second most important player on this team because of his ability to score, be a playmaker and defend. This is the perfect time for him to find his rhythm as the playoffs get closer. Head coach Mike Budenholzer spoke about his performance.

I think he had a lot of things going. I think the way he got to the basket and finished there just sets up a whole lot of the rest of his game. [He] made a handful of threes, got to the free throw line a little bit, just overall a great game by him.

Play of the game: Behind the back dime

We’ve seen plenty of incredible assists from the Bucks this season, but this may be at the top of the list. Eric Bledsoe didn’t have a great scoring night (15 points) but had 8 helpers. This one was by far his best of the contest.

The good: Sterling Brown

Brown scored a career-high-tying 15 points (6-10 FG, 3-6 3FG). Brown has now scored in double figures in two of his last three games. He has been good since his return to the rotation. Now, finding minutes in the starting rotation he’s been able to showcase his shooting and defense. Middleton shared his thoughts on Brown after the game.

He’s been huge all year for us. His defense really, his intensity. He gets after the other guards on the other teams. We live with some of those fouls because it’s just him being aggressive, him getting to people’s minds and just forcing them to do things they don’t want to do. It’s good to see him out here now fighting for minutes, now starting with a couple of guys down, hopefully he keeps it going.

The not so good: Giannis scares Fiserv

Giannis has been fighting through a right ankle injury over the last few weeks. However, sitting out for a game or two may be what’s best for the Greek Freak going forward. He scored 34 points and hauled in nine rebounds before having to exit the game in the fourth quarter after reaggravating his ankle. Giannis went to the floor and grabbed his right ankle after dunking with 7:46 left in the game. He stood up under his own power but had to limp towards the sideline. He did not return.

Budenholzer talked about the plan for Giannis moving forward.

I think we all are hoping he can push through and be healthy going forward. We’ll see how he’s feeling after tonight and either bring out the bubble wrap or keep playing.

Stat of the game: 73

Middleton (39) and Giannis (34) combined for 73 of the team’s 128 points. This was just the second time this season the Bucks have had multiple players score 30+ points in a game (10/22 vs NYK, Antetokounmpo, 31; Middleton, 30). The Bucks are tough to beat when Giannis is on his game but when the second all-star is rolling as well, look out.

What they said:

Budenholzer on the win

I think the second quarter stood out. We were able to kinda get quite a bit of separation and just kind of weather the storm in the second half.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on the game

I thought we had chances. We started out great in the first quarter. Once the ball stopped moving and you slow the game down against them, they’re just so long. Overall, I liked how we fought.

In case you missed it:

*The Bucks improve their NBA-best record to 57-19 and their league best home record to 32-6. Milwaukee is now a season-high 38 games over .500 for the first time since the 1980-81 season, when it finished with a 60-22 record.

*Milwaukee improved to 24-1 when shooting 50% or better. The Bucks have outshot their opponent 56 times this season and are 54-2 when doing so.

*The 10-point win over the Clippers was Milwaukee’s NBA-high 44th double-digit victory of the season and its 15th win by 10+ points over a team with a .500 or better record. The Bucks have now beaten their last four opponents by double-figures.

What’s next?

The Bucks (57-19) go on the road to play the Hawks (27-48) in Atlanta on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 11:30am.

Dekker on the move to LA

Former Wisconsin star Sam Dekker is headed west.

As first reported by ‘The Vertical,’ the Houston Rockets have reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers to trade All-Star point guard Chris Paul in exchange for Dekker, guards Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and DeAndre Liggins, forwards Kyle Wiltjer and Darrun Hilliard, center Montrezl Harell and a protected top-3 first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Dekker, a first-round pick by the Rockets in 2015, has been hampered by injuries in his first two seasons. He only played in three games his rookie season due to season-ending back surgery, and then missed the last few games of the regular season and the start of the playoffs this past year after suffering a fractured hand.

For the year, Dekker started two of the 77 games he saw action, essentially serving as the second man off the bench, averaging 18.5 minutes per game. In his time with the Rockets, Dekker averaged 6.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and one assist per game. He also shot 47.3 percent from the floor, 32.1 percent from behind the arc, and 55.9 percent from the free-throw line.

A trade to the Clippers could be just the shot in the arm that Dekker needs. This trade should allow him more playing time, especially since Blake Griffin is expected to opt out of his contract. According to his Twitter account, Dekker enjoyed his time with the Houston organization, but is looking forward to joining LA.

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