MILWAUKEE (AP) After dismantling the Sacramento Kings on the road this week, Bucks coach Jason Kidd worried about a possible letdown in the rematch Saturday night.
”We came off a long road trip and this was a trap game,” Kidd said.
Much like they did in the earlier meeting, the Bucks raced to a big early lead. This time, the Kings fought back and overcame a 20-point, second-half deficit before falling to the Bucks 109-104.
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”They kept playing and we were just going through the motions,” Kidd said. ”You have to give those guys credit. They were down and kept playing and made a game of it. We got the win but it wasn’t pretty.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points, made a season-high 17 free throws and had 13 rebounds for the Bucks.
”I think we did a good job starting the game, playing hard and moving the ball and just setting the tone,” Antetokounmpo said. ”We’ve got to do a better job keeping the lead and finishing the game up.”
Khris Middleton added 25 points and Eric Bledsoe had 18. Milwaukee beat the Kings 112-87 on Tuesday night in Sacramento.
”It’s frustrating but at the end of the day we got the win,” Bledsoe said. ”I thought we did a great job keeping our composure.”
Zach Randolph led the Kings with 22 points, and Buddy Hield added 19. They were coming off a victory Friday night in Chicago.
The Bucks led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and took a 12-point advantage into fourth.
”They kind of pushed us around, we turned the ball over and didn’t play with any energy,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said. ”The guys didn’t quit, though. They kept fighting.”
Milwaukee’s shooting went cold for an extended stretch in the fourth, allowing the Kings to pull to 100-96 on Garrett Temple’s 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining.
After Antetokounmpo’s two free throws, Bogdan Bogdanovic connected on a 3-pointer to pull the Kings within three points. After the Bucks came up empty again, Bogdanovic made two free throws to cut the lead to one with less than two minutes remaining.
John Henson’s hook shot and two free throws by Antetokounmpo put the Bucks up 106-101. Middleton sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
Milwaukee jumped out to a 14-0 lead, taking advantage of five Kings turnovers. The Kings scored their first points on Randolph’s jumper with 7:44 remaining in the first. Sacramento trailed by 16 at one point, finished with eight turnovers and was down 33-25 after the quarter.
”We just have to get off to a better start. We’re better than that,” Randolph said.
GOING TO THE LINE
Antetokounmpo attempted a career-high 22 free throws. ”We have to be in attack mode,” he said. Antetokounmpo ”set the tone early” with his aggressive play and by getting to the line, Kidd said.
The Bucks made a season-high 35 free throws on 42 attempts, also a season high.
Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein sustained a lower back strain in the second quarter after falling awkwardly on a layup and didn’t return. … With the Kings down 12-0 three minutes into the game, coach Dave Joerger replaced his entire lineup at once. Joerger picked up a technical foul a short time later after storming onto the court to argue a foul call. Joerger said gaining mental toughness is part of the maturation process for his young team. ”Playing the second night back-to-back. There’s a mental toughness to that,” he said.
Bucks: Recalled guard Sterling Brown and forward D.J. Wilson from the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League. … Returned home after a 3-1 trip against Western Conference foes.
Kings: At Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Bucks: At Boston on Monday night.
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