Bucks 137, Clippers 113: Big Three and big third quarter send Milwaukee to third straight win

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
View Comments
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball against Robert Covington #23 of the LA Clippers in the second quarter.

LOS ANGELES – Late Friday night in Portland, Bobby Portis said the Milwaukee Bucks had a sense of urgency about them at the start of the four-game, six-day West Coast road trip. He also said they wanted to string some wins together, a feat the Bucks had only accomplished three times to date with just three winning streaks of at least three games.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer and Portis also acknowledged there was an added focus on the third quarter malaise that plagued the team through a middling month of January, which they reversed in Portland as well.

Sunday night at Arena, the Bucks built on all of those points with a 137-113 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

  • It was their third straight win, the first time they’ve done that since Jan. 19-22.
  • They scored 39 points in the third quarter and expanded their halftime lead.
  • They withstood a home team charge early in the fourth quarter.

“I think we got some good wins at home, having a bad one there (against Denver) and then we’re just being motivated to go into the all-star break," Jrue Holiday said. "We feel that at times it gets a little iffy toward all-star break where people start to get tired mentally and physically, but it’s something we’re trying to push through. And, along with a good road trip here playing against some tough teams we want to get as many wins as possible.”

Milwaukee is now 34-21 overall and tied with Miami for most wins in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks moved into third in the conference. The Bucks also improved to 22-5 when their Big Three play together and have won seven of nine.

“This is where you kind of like, have to get some wins, come out set the tone, play good basketball," Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "And I know obviously we’re not trying to win anything now. Even if we win five in a row, six in a row it doesn’t really matter. Nobody’s going to remember it when we’re playing in May. I’m not going to remember what we did in February right before the break. But at the end of the day these two games we built very, very good habits.

"And we could be also be the team that be like oh, we’re tired man. We can't wait for the break. We could be one of those teams because we’ve played the whole year with a lot of people being out and a lot of people being down for COVID, for injuries, but we’re not one of those teams.

"We go out there, we play hard, we try to set the tone, we try to build good habits and man, the last couple of games has been fun.

"It’s been fun. Guys are being involved, guys are smiling, guys are having fun, guys are making shots, we’re defending as a team. It’s fun. We gotta just keep it up.”

Jrue Holiday had his seventh double-double of the season with 27 points on 11 of 16 shooting and 13 assists. Antetokounmpo scored 26 points on 8 of 15 shooting and a 10-for-12 performance from the free throw line. He also pulled down 10 rebounds. Khris Middleton scored 17 points, had six rebounds and five assists.

BOX SCORE: Bucks 137, Clippers 113

Portis had his 19th double-double of the season with 24 points and 11 rebounds and Pat Connaughton, starting in place of an injured Grayson Allen, made 6 three-pointers to score 18.

The Clippers were without stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George but just added reinforcements by way of a Friday trade with Portland. They worked in guard Norman Powell – a longtime Bucks nemesis dating back to his days in Toronto – and Robert Covington.

The pair came off the bench for the Clippers and Powell kept his new team in the game, scoring 28 points and handing out four assists. Covington had 13. Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers starters with 20.

Powell keyed a 9-2 run to end the third quarter and a 11-2 run to open the fourth and cut a 25-point Bucks lead to 101-92 early in the fourth.

“It’s a combination of his three-point shooting and he can rise up and get into his three, particularly off the dribble but off the catch (also) and make ‘em behind the line,” Budenholzer said of Powell. “But then he’s got an explosiveness off the dribble. He knows how to play and kind of catch the ball on the move and he’s got momentum and he’s into the paint and finishing.

"It’s a good pickup for them. He’s a tough cover. To play that way on your first night with a team, that’s impressive.”

But, Holiday scored seven points in a 9-2 run of Milwaukee’s own to squash the momentum and put the Bucks back up 110-94 with 6 minutes, 49 seconds to go in the game.

The Clippers never got closer than that again.

Connaughton eased some of the burden on the Big Three by hitting 4 three-pointers in the third quarter and scoring 12 points in helping the Bucks stretch a 60-53 lead to 76-56 in just 2:01 of game play in the early part of the quarter. Portis chipped in, too, scoring six in the frame.

The Clippers, meanwhile, continued to just misfire and the Bucks cleaned up the defensive glass to limit them to one-and-done possessions as Milwaukee built up a lead to as many as 25 in the quarter. Powell once again caused the Bucks problems in scoring 11 off the bench to keep L.A. somewhat connected in trailing 99-81 after three.

“I think the last two games we’ve won the third, which that’s been probably two out of … the rest of the month (of January),” Holiday said with a smile. “I feel like having that energy coming out of the third, especially for the last two games has been pretty easy in the fourth.”

Milwaukee used a protracted 17-3 run in the second quarter that spanned nearly seven minutes to take a 60-51 lead at the half after they had fallen behind by nine early in the second quarter.

The Bucks were paced by their Big Three as Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton combined for 38 of those points on 13 of 24 shooting. The rest of the team struggled with the seven other Bucks who saw court time shooting a combined 8-for-20.

Milwaukee was able to take the lead with such a lopsided scoring ledger thanks to terrible shooting on the part of Los Angeles. During that big Bucks run the Clippers made just 1 of 17 shots, including a stretch of 13 consecutive misses.

Powell sparked the Clippers to a 32-28 first quarter lead by scoring seven points in just over four minutes off the bench, and he scored nine for the half. Morris Sr. led the Clippers with 14 points while Jackson had 10.

A night after making 23 three-pointers in Portland, the Bucks opened the half making just 5 of 18 from behind the three-point line. To overcome that, they outscored the Clippers 24-10 in the paint. Antetokounmpo scored six in the painted area and also made 8 of 9 free throws after attacking the basket.

Bucks injury updates

Veteran guard George Hill missed his fourth straight game with neck soreness on Sunday night. That in and of itself wasn’t unexpected for the Bucks, as Budenholzer said before the road trip they anticipated the 35-year-old to be out as they managed the injury.

Before taking on the Clippers, Budenholzer said the team hoped to get more clarity on the injury Monday to determine if Hill can get back into action either Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers or Thursday in Phoenix against the Suns. Hill is averaging 7 points and 3.2 assists in 25.5 minutes per game.

Bucks center Brook Lopez made his first road trip since having back surgery in December, and though he only stretched out during the open portion of shootaround in Portland on Saturday morning it was clear the Bucks’ big man was happy to be back – and that his teammates were as well. They playfully rolled balls across the court under him as he did planks and after the game he was all smiles walking to the team bus.

Lopez’s surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Watkins IV in Los Angeles and is getting a checkup.

Starting guard Grayson Allen was a relatively late scratch for the Bucks on Sunday as his right hip flared up pregame. Allen had a hip injury that held him out of the Jan. 22 game against Sacramento, but that was his left hip. Allen went through warmups just before tipoff and it was determined he could not play.

View Comments