Top stars return for Bucks-Pelicans matchup

NBA

The Milwaukee Bucks have been good at putting a lot of distance between losses.

They followed one of their early season losses with 18 consecutive victories. They followed another loss with five consecutive victories. They followed another with nine consecutive victories.

Now they’re trying to string together another streak as they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Milwaukee bounced back from a 127-115 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday to close their three-game homestand with a 129-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

“A good response,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Not our best, but a steady, good response.”

The Bucks’ steadiness has helped them compile the NBA’s best record at 42-7. They haven’t lost consecutive games this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 30 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists in 31 minutes against the Suns, said the Bucks have emphasized being more consistent in each quarter.

“Last year at the end of each quarter we would start giving up easy points, giving up 3s,” Antetokounmpo said. “But this year we try to be more focused. We try to close quarters a little bit better and that helps.

“You’re not going to win every quarter, but when you win four quarters or three out of four, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Center Brook Lopez added 17 points and a career-high nine blocks against Phoenix.

“It was just a team effort,” Lopez said. “I think Phoenix got some easy ones early in the game. We definitely tightened up. Our goal is to be the No. 1 defensive team again.”

Antetokounmpo didn’t play in host Milwaukee’s 127-112 victory over New Orleans on Dec. 11 because of a sore quad tendon.

Also missing from that game was Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, who didn’t return from preseason knee surgery until six games ago. New Orleans is 3-3 with him in the lineup, but it lost at Houston 117-109 on Sunday.

The Pelicans had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, the most they have committed in any quarter this season, and finished with 21.

“Turnovers were definitely a big part of it,” Williamson said. “I don’t think they caused us to make those turnovers. I think it was self-inflicted turnovers. We had 10 in the first quarter and you can’t start the game like that.”

Williamson, finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the third NBA player since 2012 to have two 20-point 10-rebound games in their first six NBA games. The others are former Pelicans star Anthony Davis and current Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton.

But Williamson had just two field-goal attempts in the final 11 minutes and the Pelicans were outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter.

“Zion can’t go four minutes without touching the basketball and that’s on me,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “That’s something I’ve got to make sure that will never happen again. I take responsibility for that and if we’re not going to get it to him and we’re not going to execute — we’ve got to have different people in the game, and that’s on me also.”

–Field Level Media

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