Sloppy Bucks get a Bud scolding

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo downing two of his 32 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 128-123 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday, which extended the Eastern Conference leaders' winning streak to five games.
NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo downing two of his 32 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 128-123 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday, which extended the Eastern Conference leaders' winning streak to five games.PHOTO: REUTERS

Coach angry with team for close call against Celtics despite hefty leads: Antetokounmpo

MILWAUKEE • The Milwaukee Bucks have been brilliant this National Basketball Association (NBA) season.

After 43 games, no Bucks team have topped this season's squad, not even the 1971 championship-winning side, who had won 36 games at this stage.

With a league-best 37-6 record after Thursday night's 128-123 home triumph over the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee now also have a comfortable margin atop the Eastern Conference.

But coach Mike Budenholzer is still not satisfied.

"We were up 20 twice and they came back," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

"We didn't play the best basketball and how we usually play. I was kind of upset after the game. We talked in the locker room. We talked to one another. We were up 20 and we won but we've got to play for 48 minutes."

The NBA Most Valuable Player added: "Coach Bud came in here and he was steaming hot. He was angry and that's good.

FULL CONCENTRATION

Coach Bud came in here and he was steaming hot. He was angry and that's good.

He doesn't really care about this game or the next game. He cares about how we can get better and how can we be good for 48 minutes. That's what our goal is.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Milwaukee forward, after the Bucks almost squandered big leads against Boston.

"He doesn't really care about this game or the next game. He cares about how we can get better and how can we be good for 48 minutes. That's what our goal is."

He scored 32 points and 17 rebounds as the Bucks made the right plays down the stretch to avenge an earlier loss to the Celtics.

Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 19 points and Brook Lopez added 16 as Milwaukee extended their winning streak to five games, while winning for the 10th time in their last 11.

They came out quickly in the first quarter by opening a double-digit lead five minutes in, and opened a 27-point lead in the second quarter.

They held a 76-58 lead at half-time while looking fresh after two days off between games.

But the Celtics managed to find their legs in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to six at 87-81 before the Bucks closed the period on a run, much of it while Antetokounmpo was getting a rest, and grabbed a 106-87 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Celtics used a late 12-2 run to get within four points in the final minute but could not get any closer.

Kemba Walker led Boston with 40 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Smart added 24 as the Celtics (27-13), who are third in the East, lost for the fifth time in their last seven games.

"He was awfully special tonight," said coach Brad Stevens of Walker as the Celtics tried to find something positive in the loss.

Boston are considered one of the few teams that have the talent to topple the Bucks in their march to the top seed in the play-offs.

One of the Bucks' few defeats came on Oct 30, when they fell 116-105 at Boston in a game the Bucks led by 19 in the first half. It was their first meeting between the teams this season.

But this was a different Bucks team and a more rested group as the Celtics were playing the second game of a back-to-back stint.

"We kept fighting," said Smart. "We knew it was going to be tough. We just continued to fight and fight and gave ourselves a chance at the end."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2020, with the headline 'Sloppy Bucks get a Bud scolding'. Print Edition | Subscribe