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Antetokounmpo back as Bucks rout Bulls

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 17 rebounds in his return to action and the Milwaukee Bucks extended their recent mastery of the Chicago Bulls with a 126-98 blowout yesterday.

Antetokounmpo missed the Bucks’ 138-119 loss at Minnesota on Saturday due to a sore right knee. Milwaukee played without All-Star forward Khris Middleton, who was dealing with a sore left wrist.

“He took a fall in the Minnesota game, and it was pretty sore and stiff, so we’ve had it looked at,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. “We feel like it’s short term, but we’ll see how he feels the next day or two.”

Jrue Holiday had a game-high 27 points to go along with seven assists and no turnovers as the Bucks won for the 15th time in their last 16 meetings with the Bulls, including all three matchups this season. Chicago’s lone win during that stretch came in the 2019-20 regular-season finale, when the Bucks rested their starters because they were locked into the East’s number three playoff seed.

“Jrue was being Jrue,” Antetokounmpo said. “Jrue was being aggressive, making good decisions, getting downhill, getting everybody involved, guarding Zach (LaVine). Everybody was doing their job.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is fouled by Chicago Bulls’ Tristan Thompson during the game. PHOTO: AP

“Obviously we knew that Khris wasn’t playing, and Khris is a big part of our team and what we do here, but at the end of the day, even with the team that we have, we’re a great team.”

Brook Lopez had 10 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes for Milwaukee after making his first start since the season opener. The seven-footer had come off the bench for the Bucks’ last three games after missing 67 due to a back injury that required surgery.

The Bucks shot 61 per cent from the floor and had seven players score in double figures. The Bulls shot just 42.4 per cent.

“Shots we would want them to take, they made,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “It was a night where they really, really had it going. Credit to them. And it was a night we just didn’t shoot the ball particularly well.”

Nikola Vucevic had 22 points for the Bulls, who opened a five-game trip one night after a 113-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors. DeMar DeRozan and LaVine added 21 points each as the Bulls lost for the ninth time in 12 games.

“At some point, we’ve got to get tired of getting our butt kicked like this and flip that switch of understanding, all right, enough is enough,” DeRozan said. “Now it’s time to turn it around and show that desperation.”

Milwaukee took command with a 23-4 spurt that began late in the first quarter and continued in the second.

After trailing by 23 late in the second period, the Bulls cut the lead to 64-54 early in the third. But the Bucks regrouped and pulled away again, eventually leading by as many as 35.