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.

Bucks can’t overcome second quarter run in loss to Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 36-15 in the second quarter to win the game 117-92.

Steph Curry paced the Warriors with 28 points, including eight three-pointers, while Klay Thompson followed that up with 21 points. As a team, the Warriors held a distinct advantage when it came to perimeter shooting, converting on 12-of-23 attempts (52.2 percent), while Milwaukee was just 9-of-27 (33.3 percent).

But the Bucks were tasked with playing from behind for much of the game, despite leading 17-5 in the game’s opening minutes. It didn’t help Milwaukee’s case that Golden State hoarded all the missed shots. The Warriors dominated the glass with 44 rebounds, compared to the Bucks’ 35.

It was the fourth game of a six-game road trip for the Bucks, who were led by Malcolm Brogdon’s 18 points. They’re now 2-2 over that stretch while trying to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

”No excuses but we were fatigued,” Brogdon said. ”If your second game on a back-to-back is one of the best teams, it’s going to be tough. Fatigue definitely plays a factor but it’s not the reason we lost.”

The Bucks have Sunday and Monday off before returning Tuesday night to visit the Portland Trailblazers.

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.

Bucks hold off Clippers to move into seventh place

LOS ANGELES — The Milwaukee Bucks avoided a late-game collapse to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 97-96 Wednesday night and move into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Milwaukee used a 30-point fourth quarter to stay ahead of Los Angeles, while Blake Griffin’s last-second shot missed the mark. Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t place the blame on Griffin for missing the shot.

“We just couldn’t get multiple stops,” Rivers said. “We got a couple stops because we cut the lead, but I just thought we failed to get big stops.”

Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 16 points apiece, but it was likely the late three-pointer from Matthew Dellavedova that was the final nail in the coffin. The dagger put Milwaukee up 97-91 with 1:17 remaining in regulation. Milwaukee’s ability to keep Los Angeles off the three-point line was also crucial, as the Clippers made just five of their 24 (20.8 percent) three-point attempts.

The Bucks remain in Los Angeles for Friday night’s contest with the Lakers, scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m. CT.

Bucks chasing down slim playoff chances

LOS ANGELES — When the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, they’ll do so with slim odds of making the postseason.

FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Bucks to finish with a 39-43 record, good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two spots out of the playoff spot. That translates to a 37 percent chance of making the postseason, but with just a 24 percent probability of beating the Clippers, those odds may dwindle further on this six-game road trip.

The Bucks had won six in a row heading into Memphis Monday night, but failed to capitalize on what should have been a very winnable game. With 11 of their remaining 16 games on the road, Milwaukee will have to improve on its road record of 12-18 (.400) if it wants to make the postseason for the second time in three years. Six of Milwaukee’s remaining games come against teams with winning records.

The preseason hamstring injury to Khris Middleton severely hampered the Bucks’ three-point shooting, but Milwaukee’s luck got even worse once Middleton returned prior to the All Star break. One has to wonder how Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear affects the team and where it may have been had Parker stayed healthy.

Milwaukee’s playoff chances peaked on Jan. 4 when it was 18-16, following a 105-104 win over the New York Knicks. FiveThirtyEight.com gave the Bucks a 1541 rating, which was slightly above the average rating of 1500.

With a tough schedule remaining and down a key player, will the Bucks pack it in and try better next year? If they miss the playoffs, will people give coach Jason Kidd a pass or hold him accountable?

 

Grizzlies snap Bucks win streak with 113-93 win

MEMPHIS — The Memphis Grizzlies ended a five-game losing streak, while halting the Milwaukee Bucks momentum of six straight wins with a 113-93 victory Monday night.

The struggling Grizzlies decided to put veteran Vince Carter in the starting lineup for the first time this season and were rewarded with a perfect performance — a career-high 24 points on 8-of-8 shooting, including 6-for-6 from beyond the arc.

”Hey, better late than never,” Carter said after the win. ”I didn’t realize it until [Chandler Parsons] said something to me. I’d rather not know. Just let me play.”

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 18 points on 6-of-14 from the field. Malcolm Brogdon added 15 off the bench, but said “they came out with more urgency than we did.”

Khris Middleton made his eighth start of the season, but struggled to 11 points on 25 percent shooting. It was Milwaukee’s first loss this season with Middleton in the starting lineup.

Report: Former Bucks C Larry Sanders agrees to deal with Cavaliers

CLEVELAND — After a two year hiatus, former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders is back in the NBA as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sanders left Milwaukee shortly after signing a four-year, $44 million contract in 2013. At the time, he cited a lack of passion for the game of basketball and also personal issues such as depression. The Bucks were forced to buy out his contract, agreeing to pay the former VCU star $1.9 million over the next seven seasons (through the 2021-2022 season). It appears he’ll still be paid by Milwaukee despite signing with Cleveland.

No details of the new Cavaliers contract were revealed, after initially being reported by Yahoo Sports! The Vertical. Sanders will likely have a contract option for the 2017-2018 season.

The Cavaliers had been searching for a replacement after Andrew Bogut suffered a fractured fibula upon making his debut with Cleveland this season. Sanders has been active on social media about his search for an NBA return, posting frequent photos and videos of himself in Cleveland and wearing team apparel.

Bucks beat Timberwolves for sixth straight victory

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks picked up their sixth win in a row Saturday night by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-95 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee is starting to figure out how to win without gaudy numbers from Giannis Antetokounmpo, taking advantage of double digit scoring by seven players en route to the win. Tony Snell led the Bucks with 19 points, while Antetokounmpo added 18.

”We’d love for everybody to score 10 points but the big thing is these guys kept fighting,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. ”There are a lot of tired bodies in that locker room.”

The six-game winning streak is the longest Milwaukee has had since the 2011-2012 season. The current run has also placed the Bucks into playoff contention, currently holding what would be the eighth and final playoff spot with about 2 ½ weeks to play.

”You’ve got to play for today,” Kidd said. ”You can’t control the lottery balls. You never know what the future holds. With free agency and the way things change so fast in this league, you have to try to get through that process sooner rather than later.”

It’s the fifth straight game Milwaukee has held its opponent under 100 points — a season-best streak.

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.

Bucks beat 76ers for third straight win

PHILADELPHIA — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tony Snell helped the Milwaukee Bucks to their third consecutive win, taking down the Philadelphia 76ers 112-98 Monday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, while Tony Snell scored 18 of his season-high 21 points in the first half. Snell added seven rebounds and two steals in the effort.

”Right now we’re playing our best basketball,” Antetokounmpo said. ”Everybody is playing hard, we’re playing team basketball and we’re making a (playoff) push. That’s great for us right now.”

The Bucks led from the get-go, leading by as many as 27 points and beating the 76ers for the first time in three tries this season. Philadelphia couldn’t shoot itself back into the game, converting on just 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) of its three-point attempts.

A strange trend forming for Milwaukee is the “John Henson effect.” The Bucks are 7-0 in their last seven games when Henson doesn’t get playing time, but 0-5 in their last five games where he takes the court.