Bucks retire in second half to beat Trail Blazers

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 37 points and the Milwaukee Bucks retired in the second half to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 119-111 Monday night.

Antetokounmpo made 16 of his 24 field goal attempts, plus seven rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes. Milwaukee improved to 12-4 and 9-1 at home.

“I thought he played well with his teammates and then played well himself,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “Everyone made the right pass. If you don’t make the right pass, if you hold it too much, they can screw it up with all the different things they do defensively.”

Milwaukee beat Portland 30-18 in the third quarter after leading 63-61 at halftime.

Then Bucks guard Jrue Holiday scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot from behind the backboard. Holiday opened the quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Bucks a 96-79 lead and had Milwaukee’s first nine points of the period.

“It was good for him that it went in,” said Budenholzer. “He scored in many different ways.”

Grayson Allen played aggressively and contributed 17 points and eight rebounds for Milwaukee.

Anfernee Simons led the Trail Blazers (10-7) with 29 points and Josh Hart added 17 points. Center Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Portland lost its third straight game.

“Of course it’s always going to be a tough night playing against Giannis,” said Simons. “He’s just so difficult to guard. It took all five of us to guard him.”

Portland took a 32-30 lead after the first quarter, shooting 58.3% from the field (14 of 24).

The teams traded the lead eight times in the first half. Antetokounmpo raised over Nurkic for an emphatic dunk, but Simons pocketed a baseline shot just before the second-quarter buzzer to close the gap to two points.

Antetokounmpo scored 19 points in the third quarter as the Bucks extended their lead to 93-79 before going into the closing stages.

The Bucks star absorbed some tough fouls but said he wasn’t worried about it.

“I take a lot of hard hits, but at the end of the day it’s basketball,” said Antetokounmpo. “I enjoy putting my body on the line. It kindles a fire in my stomach and wakes me up. When I get hit, I kind of enjoy it. I feel part of the game, I’m locked in and I’m aggressive.”

The Bucks had 31 assists on 47 field goals while keeping the ball moving.

“There were some beautiful possessions, especially in the third quarter where every single person was touching them,” Allen said. “It changed sides several times. We had crawled around the defense and ended up with a wide open three or a layup on the rim. It’s fun to play like that.”

TIP INS

Trailblazer: Rookie Shaedon Sharpe started in place of point guard Damian Lillard, who was out with a pulled soleus muscle in his right lower leg. According to the Trail Blazers, Lillard will be reevaluated in a week or two. The 19-year-old Sharpe, the seventh overall pick in the 2022 draft, averaged 9.7 points in 15 games. He had two points on 1-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes.

Bucks: Pat Connaughton made his season debut after missing Milwaukee’s first 15 games with a right calf strain. Connaughton came into play early in the second quarter and finished it with seven points in 16 minutes… Khris Middleton and Wes Matthews battled with G-League Wisconsin Herd players early Monday. Middleton has not played this season after left wrist ligament surgery, and Matthews missed his third straight game with a right thigh muscle strain. Budenholzer gave no timetable for their return.

NEXT

Trail Blazers: Play in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Bucks: host Chicago on Wednesday.

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