MILWAUKEE (AP) — After outscoring opponents by an average of 34 points in their previous four games, the Milwaukee Bucks found out right away things would be tougher yesterday when their first two shots were blocked.
That slowed the Bucks down, but they still can’t be stopped.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 15 rebounds to lead Milwaukee to their 15th straight victory, 110-101 over the Orlando Magic.
“Sometimes, it’s good to have close games. You learn from that. You get used to being in close games and not always winning by 20 or 30,” said Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP.
“We got the win, we grinded it out and played defence, but I think the two days in between made us a little bit rusty.”
The Bucks were off last Saturday and Sunday.
They outrebounded Orlando 54-44, angering Magic coach Steve Clifford.
“You can’t come on the road and get smacked on the glass like that. There’s got to be some physicality,” he said.
“Too many hustle points, second-chance points,” added Aaron Gordon, who had 13 rebounds and 10 points.
Khris Middleton scored 20 points for Milwaukee and Dante DiVincenzo added 12 points off the bench. Evan Fournier had 26 points for the Magic, who had won four straight. Terrence Ross scored 23.
Ross hit a three-pointer and was fouled by Eric Bledsoe with 50 seconds left to cut the Bucks’ lead to 107-101, but he missed the free throw. Then Middleton put away the game by responding with a three-pointer.
At 21-3, Milwaukee is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA’s best record.
The Bucks’ first two shots were rejected by Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, the league’s leading shot blocker.
In all, Isaac recorded four blocks against four different players before the game was eight minutes old. He finished with five blocks.
Despite the rough start, the Bucks surged to a 31-18 lead after a 14-0 run late in the first quarter, with forward Ersan Ilyasova sinking two three-pointers. They led 52-40 at halftime.
Orlando shot just 29.5 per cent from the field, including 14.3 per cent from behind the three-point line, in the first half.
“I think our defence, even though I didn’t love the way we played tonight, our first-half defence kind of carried us through,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Magic, fuelled by six three-pointers in the third quarter, including three by Ross, drew within five points just before the end of the period. But they couldn’t get any closer.