The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t missed a beat when taking the court without Giannis Antetokounmpo this season, whether due to injury, rest or a blessed event.
The NBA-best Bucks look to continue their torrid stretch — with or without Antetokounmpo — on Wednesday when they visit the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
Milwaukee improved to a perfect 5-0 without the reigning NBA MVP, who missed Monday’s 123-111 victory over Sacramento due to the birth of his first child, Liam Charles.
“It’s a blessing, especially for Giannis. First time being a dad,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “We can help him out as much as we can and he’s going to enjoy it.”
Bledsoe made certain Antetokounmpo enjoyed his special day by taking care of business on the court. Bledsoe joined Khris Middleton in collecting 28 points and eight assists as Milwaukee rode a strong start in the fourth quarter to post its fifth straight win and 14th in 15 outings.
Bledsoe drained a pair of 3-pointers to highlight the Bucks’ 13-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, a spurt that regained the team’s confidence and put the Kings back on their heels.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Middleton said. “Who has the best team? We definitely feel like we got one of the best players out there. He wasn’t out there (Monday) but we still think we have one of the best teams in the league.
“Teams may think they might be able to win when he’s not out there. But that’s what motivates us. To let them know we’re a complete team. We’re an even better team when he’s out there. But when he’s not out there we can still hold it down.”
Antetokounmpo, who averages team-bests in points (30.0), rebounds (13.5) and assists (5.8), had 26 points in Milwaukee’s 102-83 road win against Indiana on Nov. 16 before recording 18 points and 19 boards in a 117-89 victory over the Pacers on Dec. 22.
While Milwaukee is cruising along, Indiana fell for the sixth time in as many games in February with a 106-105 setback versus Brooklyn on Monday.
Domantas Sabonis’ fourth triple-double (23 goals, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in his last dozen games went for naught as the Pacers failed to hold a late advantage, much to the chagrin of coach Nate McMillan.
“We had a four-point lead there, late. We’ve got to win that,” McMillan said. “You’ve got to score and you’ve got to get stops and we didn’t do that, again. It’s us, again, not finishing the game.”
Sabonis, who averages team-bests in points (18.3) and rebounds (12.5), is averaging 15.0 and 16.0, respectively, in the two meetings with Milwaukee this season.
Malcolm Brogdon, who endured a dismal shooting performance (3 of 11) for six points versus the Nets, told the Indianapolis Star that the Pacers can put an end to their losing ways on Wednesday.
“We can win, whether we won the last six in a row or lost the last six in a row. We can beat that team,” Brogdon said.
Victor Oladipo continues to struggle finding his range, making just 5 of 14 shots for 12 points on Monday. The former All-Star guard is 23 of 78 (29.5 percent) in six games following a year-long absence from a ruptured tendon in his right knee for Indiana, which sent its projected starting lineup to the court for the first time all season.
“It’s only taken, what, 53 games to get to this point?” McMillan said. “But we have a chance now to establish this group and build off that.”
–Field Level Media