Bucks halt Trail Blazers’ three-game win streak
PORTLAND, Ore. — When the Milwaukee Bucks are good — as they were through three quarters Thursday night at Moda Center — they can play with the best teams in the NBA.
The Bucks raced to an 87-66 lead after three quarters, then held on for a 103-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“We played 48 minutes of good defense,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “Defense gave us the opportunity to get this win against a very talented team, a very hot team.”
Khris Middleton scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe added 25 for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots for Milwaukee (11-9), which finished its four-game road trip 3-1.
“It’s a big road trip for us,” Kidd said. “I’m seeing growth from the guys at both ends of the court in terms of understanding how to finish a game.”
The Bucks shot 55.7 percent through three quarters and wound up at 48.3 percent for the game. Middleton, Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo were the biggest part of that.
“It’s one of our best games playing together,” Antetokounmpo said. “It was great to see all the guys get going. But it’s just the beginning. We have a long way to go.”
Jusuf Nurkic collected 25 points and 11 rebounds and Damian Lillard had 18 points, seven boards and seven assists for the Trail Blazers (13-9), who saw their three-game winning streak come to an end. CJ McCollum made 7 of 20 shots and finished with 15 points.
“They played physical and aggressive on defense,” Lillard said. “They gave us a lot of attention. Each time we came off pick-and-rolls, there were two guys there aggressively. They were trying to make us get rid of the ball. They did a good job of that.”
The Bucks made five of their first seven shots from the field to take a 14-8 lead. Nurkic had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first eight minutes, but the Bucks still led 26-19. Middleton banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Milwaukee a 33-21 advantage after one quarter.
Portland opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run to draw within 33-31. Milwaukee answered with an 13-2 spurt to go ahead 46-33. The Bucks were in front by 15 points at the half.
Bledsoe scored 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting to lead Milwaukee to a 60-45 halftime edge. Middleton added 14 and Antetokounmpo 10 for the Bucks, who shot .574 from the field.
The Bucks extended their advantage to 71-49 early in the third quarter, and kept it going, upping the difference to 83-59 late in the quarter. It was 87-66 heading into the final period.
Milwaukee increased the difference to 92-68 early in the fourth quarter. Portland responded with an 11-0 run to close to within 92-79 with 6:54 left. But the Blazers got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
“Milwaukee’s length and aggressiveness gave us trouble,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “We had a hard time finishing around the basket, especially the first half. That affected us on the other end. In the second half, we could never quite get there.”
NOTES: Milwaukee swept the two-game season series from Portland for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign. ... The Bucks ended their four-game road trip 3-1. ... Portland F Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) saw action after missing the previous 13 games. He totaled six points and five rebonds in 22 minutes off the bench. ... Portland G CJ McCollum missed his first seven shots from the field. He finished with 15 points on 7-for-20 shooting. ... In his 10 games with Milwaukee since his acquisition from Phoenix, G Eric Bledsoe has scored in double figures nine times. ... Portland entered the game ranked No. 3 in the NBA in rebounding percentage. Milwaukee was 28th. The Blazers won the board battle 50-35 on Thursday night. ... Milwaukee won the fast-break points battle 16-0.