Red-hot Giannis Antetokounmp looks to keep his strong start going against the Brooklyn Nets.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets capitalized on opponents not giving proper effort and emerged with wins over elite competition.
Both teams will attempt to follow up those impressive victories when the Bucks visit the Nets on Thursday.
Milwaukee has won three of four games since a three-point home loss to the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 19. The third victory in that stretch was Tuesday’s 118-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Against the Cavaliers, Milwaukee rallied from a 14-point deficit in the first quarter and dominated the second half. The Bucks took a four-point halftime lead and stretched the advantage to 18 after the third quarter before leading by as many as 22 in the fourth when Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue removed his starters because he didn’t feel like they were playing.
“We didn’t let them off the hook,” Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We were attacking. They are the champs, but this is a great win.”
Antetokounmpo highlighted the win over the defending champions by tying a career high with 34 points to go along with 12 rebounds, five steals and two blocks on 13 of 19 shooting. Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis are the only players to record 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game this season.
During Milwaukee’s last five games, Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.4 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 57.8 percent (48 of 83).
“He’s been here four years now; he’s arrived,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.
Milwaukee is around the middle of the pack in pace at 96.3 possessions per game and offensive rating at 105.9. The Bucks are in the bottom third in scoring at 102.7 points per game but their numbers are somewhat improved recently.
During the last five games, the Bucks have averaged 107 points and shot 48.8 percent (208 of 426).
“It’s not that it’s a breakout; it was a matter of us trusting each other and being on the same page and playing as a team,” Kidd said. “For a young team … sometimes it takes time. You want to put it in the microwave and instantly get it right away but if you’re patient enough for the process and the journey, it will come.
“This was a good night for us to learn. Now, the next step is for us to get better tomorrow and try again to find a way to win on the road.”
Brooklyn is 5-12 after stopping an ugly seven-game losing streak with a 127-122 double overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night.
The Nets picked up their first win since Nov. 12 by rallying from an 18-point deficit in a game that coach Doc Rivers accused the Clippers of taking the contest for granted.
Sean Kilpatrick scored 31 of his career-high 38 points after the third quarter. He was 3 of 14 from the field through 36 minutes but made 11 of 20 attempts the rest of the way.
“I ended up getting into a zone,” Kilpatrick said. “I think at the end of the day when you have that attack mentality, it really actually pays off because most of the time a natural reaction is to sit there and take a play off and when you have somebody that’s just constantly sitting there attacking you every play, I think that’s something that keeps the defense off guard. At that point there was no turning back for me.”
Kilpatrick also grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds. He was on such a roll that coach Kenny Atkinson abandoned his motion offense in favor of isolation plays for Kilpatrick.
“At one point in the game, I think he was 2 of 10,” Atkinson said. “I was sitting over there saying, ‘Wow he is really struggling. Do we get him out or what?’ Sean kept at it and kept competing, got a few shots to fall and started rolling. I thought he did a great job.”
Defensively, the Nets took care of things in the final 22 minutes. After allowing the Clippers to get 86 points on 45 percent shooting through the first 36 minutes, the Nets held Los Angeles to 36 points on 34.2 percent shooting the rest of the game, including 2 of 11 in the second overtime.
“Our guys didn’t give up,” Nets center Brook Lopez said. “We got down in the third again, got down at halftime. We just kept competing. Our guys didn’t up. We played together, trusting and we got stops when we needed to.”
Since Jan. 9, 2009, the Bucks have won 12 of the last 16 meetings. Since Kidd left the Nets following 44 wins in 2013-14, Milwaukee has won seven of eight meetings, including the last five and a 122-118 triple overtime victory Nov. 19, 2014 in Brooklyn.
In the first meeting of the season, Milwaukee recorded a 110-108 home victory on Oct. 26 as Rashad Vaughn scored 22 points while Antetokounmpo collected 21 and 10 rebounds.
In the last meeting in Brooklyn on March 13, Antetokounmpo had a triple-double of 28 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in a 109-100 win.