Bucks pull away from Nets
NEW YORK -- So Giannis Antetokounmpo, which do you prefer: the rest or the triple-double?
The answer was easy for Antetokounmpo, especially when he did enough to help the Milwaukee Bucks surge ahead in the third quarter and his teammates took care of the rest in the fourth.
Antetokounmpo nearly had a triple-double with 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Bucks took control in the third and pulled away for a 111-93 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
“It’s a long season, it doesn’t really matter for me,” Antetokounmpo said. “The only thing that matters is we get the win. We play them again in two days, so they made a great decision sitting me in the fourth quarter because we’ve got to get the win again in two days. It’s a must-win game.”
“I don’t know what the stats are,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “Maybe I messed them up by now. It’s a hot thing right now but I thought his intent was at a very high level and when you play like that to get rest and I think that you don’t have to come back in the fourth, that your teammates pick you up, that shows our maturity level and our young team is starting to grow.”
Antetokounmpo put the Bucks in position to get the win and give him and most of their starters rest in the fourth quarter. After getting 34 points when the Bucks scored 34 points in the third quarter of a 17-point win on Tuesday against Cleveland, he scored 12 of Milwaukee’s 38 points in the third quarter.
Those points helped Milwaukee go from having a 52-51 half lead to a 90-78 edge into the fourth quarter. Milwaukee never trailed after Jabari Parker hit a 17-footer for a 61-60 lead with 8:36 left and that basket triggered the decisive 18-4 run that spanned just over three minutes.
During the third quarter, the Bucks shot 63.2 percent, made 5 of 9 3-pointers and outrebounded Brooklyn 10-4.
“I think the ball was a little sticky in that first half,” Kidd said. “It wasn’t moving like it was (against) Cleveland and we talked about it at half time. We made the adjustment. The guys came out with a great effort to start that third, but defensively that’s where it’s all starts for us.”
Besides Antetokounmpo nearly getting his seventh career triple-double and second in a row at Brooklyn, others had a hand in Milwaukee’s fourth win in five games since a three-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 19. Parker was Milwaukee’s lone starter to score in the fourth and he added 22, rookie Malcolm Brogdon contributed 13, including the 3-pointer to cap the clinching run.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 15 points but misfired on eight of 12 shots. Sean Kilpatrick followed up his career-high 38-point night against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday by adding 14 but missed five of his last six shots.
The Nets (5-13) lost for the eighth time in nine games. Seven of those defeats have been double-digits as Brooklyn shot 38.2 percent and allowed 26 points off 18 turnovers.
“The third quarter again, they outscored us pretty good there,” said Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, whose team has been outscored 260-177 in the third during the last eight defeats. “So we’ve really got to look at we are doing there. We are looking at it and trying to figure it out, but we haven’t figured it out yet.”
Brooklyn held its last lead at 60-59 on a basket by Kilpatrick with 8:44 left. The Nets shot 29.2 percent (12 of 41) and were outscored 51-33 the rest of the way.
“The third quarter again, we came out flat,” Nets forward Trevor Booker said. “They took advantage of it. You just got to find ways to get a better start in the third quarter.”
The game was played in front of former president Bill Clinton, who sat courtside and was introduced to the crowd in the first quarter. He returned to his seat about midway through the third quarter when Milwaukee began surging ahead.
NOTES: Multiple reports said free agent F Donatas Motiejunas visited the Nets for a physical Thursday and the team will likely sign the restricted free agent to an offer sheet Friday. ... Motiejunas received a qualifying offer for about $4.4 million in June from Houston but the offer expired in October, and last month the Rockets reportedly offered him a two-year deal with about $7 million guaranteed in the first year. ... Milwaukee recalled G Rashad Vaughn from a second stint in the D-League with the Westchester Knicks, where he averaged 11.5 points in 15.9 minutes in two games. ... Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said there are no plans to send rookie F Thon Maker to the D-League.