LOS ANGELES (AP) – While most teams are looking ahead to next week’s All-Star break, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are trying to correct some bad habits they hope won’t trip them up in the playoffs.
If the first two games of their Western Conference road trip are any indication, the defending NBA champions are on the right track.
The Bucks had another dominating third quarter as they pulled away to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 137-113 Sunday night.
“I enjoy playing in January and February. This is where you have to get some wins, come out, set a tone and play good games,” said Antetokounmpo, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds. “The last couple games have been fun. Guys are playing and shooting well.”
Antetokounmpo was one of three players with a double-double. Los Angeles native and former UCLA standout Jrue Holiday added 27 points and 13 assists and Bobby Portis had 24 points with 11 rebounds.
It is the first time since last April the Bucks have had three players with at least 24 points in a regular-season game.
One of the bad habits the Bucks are trying to put behind them are awful third quarters.
They had been outscored in 16 of 19 games in the third before the road trip, but have had the advantage in two straight games for the first time since late December.
Milwaukee led 60-53 early in the third before it went on a 19-3 run over a two-and-a-half minute span to put the game out of reach. Pat Connaughton made four of his six 3-pointers during the spurt and Middleton scored five points.
“We were able to do good things on both ends,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer about the third quarter. “Pat started getting hot and went on a run that was pretty incredible. The running, transition and spacing was good.”
The Clippers went on a 17-2 run late in the third and early in the fourth to get within nine, before the Bucks responded with a pair of spurts over the remaining nine minutes.
Milwaukee’s largest lead was 26 points late in the fourth quarter as they won for the seventh time in nine games.