Antetokounmpo leads balanced attack as Bucks trounce Pelicans
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Doc Rivers will take over a Milwaukee Bucks team that's coming off one of its most dominant performances of the season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds as one of four Bucks with at least 20 points in a 141-117 blowout of the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night. The Bucks led by as many as 34 and matched their fourth-largest victory margin.
The Bucks shot 56% as they improved to 2-1 in their third and final game with Joe Prunty as interim head coach following the Tuesday firing of Adrian Griffin. Antetokounmpo praised the way Prunty responded as the Bucks played three games in a span of four days.
“It's crazy that he's never been a head coach in this league,” Antetokounmpo said. “It's insane.”
Rivers will make his Bucks coaching debut on Monday when the team opens a five-game trip against the reigning champion Denver Nuggets. The Bucks have won seven of their last nine games.
“I think the last couple of games we've played, we've just had good energy,” said Damian Lillard, who had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds. “I think our team recognizes everything that's happening around us, and we've just kind of come closer and just focused even more on games. Once we get to Denver, it'll be similar. We've just got to stay connected and stay on the same path that we've been on the last couple of games.”
Both teams were trying to bounce back after losing at home a night earlier. The Bucks had fallen 112-100 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, while the Pelicans got trounced 107-83 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Bucks improved to 6-1 when they’ve played on zero days’ rest, while the Pelicans had a disappointing start to a four-game trip.
“Give them credit,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They dominated the game. It was really a lackluster performance on our part, and it starts with me. I've got to hold our guys more accountable. This is a tough back-to-back. We know it, flying up here. They had a back-to-back as well, probably some tired legs, but our fight has to be better. Those guys in the locker room, they know it.”
Because Milwaukee was playing for a second straight night, Khris Middleton sat out Saturday’s game as the Bucks continue to manage the workload on his surgically repaired right knee. Middleton had played 36 minutes on Friday.
Williamson returned for the Pelicans after missing Friday’s game with a bone bruise in his left foot.
After Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer broke a 17-all tie with 5:07 left in the first quarter, the Bucks stayed ahead the rest of the way.
The game started out as a shootout, with the Bucks going 13 of 25 and the Pelicans 7 of 13 from 3-point range over the first 20 1/2 minutes. Both teams shot over 54% overall during a first half that ended with the Bucks ahead 75-63.
The Bucks broke the game open in the second half and eventually led by as many as 34.
Pelicans: At Boston on Monday.
Bucks: At Denver on Monday.
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