Middleton, Bledsoe helps Bucks beat Kings minus Antetokounmpo

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks presented Giannis Antetokounmpo a victory as a baby gift.

Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe scored 28 points apiece to pace Milwaukee past Sacramento 123-111 yesterday as the Bucks won without new father Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, missed the game after he and his girlfriend welcomed their first child, which he announced on his Twitter account.

“They are a good team. They are very balanced, they play a really good system,” said Kings guard Buddy Hield.

“Bledsoe leading the charge tonight, him and Middleton. Giannis was out, but those guys were able to get going. They are tough covers. We got to do a better job just containing them and making things uncomfortable for them but we didn’t do that and in the third and fourth quarter and they got it going. “

Milwaukee trailed 90-88 after three quarters, but opened the final period with 13 consecutive points as Sacramento missed its first five shots. Bledsoe capped the run with back-to-back three-pointers to put the Bucks up 101-90.

“We were saying going into the fourth, whoever starts playing defense, starts getting stops is going to take the game away,” Bucks centre Brook Lopez said. “That’s what that group did who was out there at the beginning of fourth. It fueled us and we continued to ride on that through the whole fourth quarter.”

Bogdan Bogdanovic hit two free throws to pull the Kings within 103-97 with 5:58 remaining. Sacramento had a chance to cut it to four, but Middleton came up with a steal and scored on a breakaway jam.

“Khris knocks the ball away, gets the deflection, and then gets out and gets the break,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it was a six-point game right then and they had the ball and a chance to maybe cut it to four, instead we’re back up to eight and feel more confident.”

Donte DiVincenzo’s three-pointer pushed the Bucks’ lead to 111-100 with 3:35 left.

Harrison Barnes had 23 points and De’Aaron Fox added 17 for the Kings, who had won four of their previous five.

Lopez added 20 points for the Bucks, who improved their NBA-best record to 46-7. Milwaukee is 4-6 when trailing after three quarters. The Bucks also are 5-0 in games without Antetokounmpo this season.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe and Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox go after a loose ball. PHOTO: AP