ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)Brook Lopez scored 26 points, Khris Middleton and Jevon Carter each added 24 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Orlando Magic 134-123 on Tuesday night for their 18th win in 19 games.
Bobby Portis Jr. had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Jae Crowder added 15 points for the Bucks, who shot 59% and ran their winning streak against the Magic to 14 games.
Playing without All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (non-COVID-19 illness) and Jrue Holiday (sore neck), the Bucks had little trouble finding the right combinations in stretching their league-best record to 47-18.
“I really think it’s just the caliber of players we have,” Lopez said. “We’ve got guys who are high basketball IQ and are unselfish, team first. It’s great to have a couple of those guys, but to have a bench full of them, we’re really lucky.”
Middleton, starting for the first time since Dec. 15, had 11 assists.
“It’s crazy that we played so long without him this season,” Lopez said, “but it was obviously important for him to get healthy and get right.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said it was time to increase Middleton’s playing time.
“It felt like it was the right time for (Middleton) to get up to the 30-minute plateau, with Jrue and Giannis not playing,” Budenholzer said. “Just doing a little bit of everything, he set a good tone for us early. We were fortunate to have him come off the bench for us for a long time, and now he’s going to continue to do those things where he’s always been, in our starting lineup.” Cole Anthony led the Magic with 23 points. Franz Wagner added 21 points and Paolo Banchero had 20 points and five rebounds.
“I didn’t see much,” said Anthony of the Magic’s defensive effort. “I think they scored at least 32 points every single quarter (36-34-32-32). We just had no answer. We couldn’t stop them.”
The Bucks pulled away from a 51-all tie and led 70-60 after a first half in which Lopez scored 19 points.
Crowder, playing in only his sixth game with the Bucks, scored seven straight points late in the third quarter to put the Bucks up 98-83.
“That’s kind of a sliver lining to a couple guys not playing,” Budenholzer said. “He got to play a lot of minutes. He got a good rhythm and he made shots.”
The Magic were down by eight points until Portis and Middleton led a fourth-quarter charge that pushed the Bucks’ lead to 16, their largest of the game.
“They are playing great basketball right now – confident, playing like a well-oiled machine,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “They share, they move it, they trust their shot. You have to give them a ton of credit.”
Bucks: G Lindell Wigginton played 31 seconds after signing a two-way contract Tuesday. … G Goran Dragic, who signed with Milwaukee on Saturday, is rehabbing a sore left knee and is close to playing, according to coach Mike Budenholzer. … Carter, who went into the game as the NBA’s 12th-leading 3-point shooter, made 4 of 5 attempts. . . . The Bucks made 32 of 34 free throws.
Magic: C Wendell Carter (left hip) and G Gary Harris (sore left abductor) sat out a second straight game. … The Magic shot 26 for 95 (27.4%) from 3-point range in three games against Milwaukee.
HEALTHY YEAR FOR LOPEZ
Budenholzer did not hesitate when asked why the Bucks are so much better this season when playing with key pieces missing.
“If you’re just going back to last year, Brook Lopez basically missed the entire season,” he said. “So when Jrue and Chris and Giannis were missing, it was always in addition to Brook. Brook’s playing at a high level; he’s been excellent on both ends of the court. … Besides the depth of the roster, I think Brooks’ health and quality of play has just been off the charts.”
Antetokounmpo has missed 13 games this season. Holiday has missed 14 and Middleton has missed 43. Lopez has missed only one.
Bucks: Host Brooklyn on Thursday.
Magic: Host Utah on Thursday.
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