The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks had more enough depth and skill without without Giannis Antetokounmpo to overwhelm the league-worst Atlanta Hawks.
”I think this was a pretty complete game by our group,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. ”The defense stood out to me in the first half. I think (holding the Hawks to) 40 points at halftime gave us a nice cushion. We kind of could ride that out the rest of the game.”
Khris Middleton scored 23 points, Ersan Ilyasova had season highs of 18 points and 17 rebounds and the Bucks overcame Antetokunmpo’s absence to beat the Hawks 112-86 on Friday night.
Antetokunmpo, the league MVP last season and second-leading scorer this season, sat out because of back soreness. He watched from the bench as his teammates helped Milwaukee improve to 28-5 overall and 13-3 on the road.
The Hawks lost their ninth straight to drop to a league-worst 6-26. Guard Trae Young, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer, left with a right ankle sprain late in the second quarter. He had to be helped off the floor and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
”Who’s stepping up? Who’s the next man up?” Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. ”Who do we insert in the lineup, who do we insert in rotation and can you impact the game? That’s the only spirit we have. It’s pro sports. You adjust and you do it.”
Brook Lopez had 19 points for Milwaukee to match his season high.
Allen Crabbe led the Hawks with 20 points in a reserve role. Starting forward John Collins, Atlanta’s second-leading scorer, finished with nine points and missed 10 of 14 shots from the field. He had a season-high 16 rebounds.
Ilyasova’s 3 at the 6:25 mark of the third put the Bucks up 78-46. With his team trailing by 30 a couple of minutes later, Atlanta’s DeAndre’ Bembry stole the ball and missed a dunk.
The Bucks improved to 26-3 since Nov. 1 and are 2-0 without Antetokoumpo, who missed a Dec. 11 win over New Orleans with right quad tendon soreness.
Middleton, Lopez and Ilyasova, who started in Antetokounmpo’s spot, sat out the fourth quarter with a comfortable lead.
Middleton scored a season-high 31 in a loss Wednesday night at Philadelphia.
”He’s just a special player,” Budenholzer said. ”We get to see him every day. We’re fortunate.”
Middleton didn’t mind filling the offensive void, but he hopes Antetokounmpo and injured guard Eric Bledsoe are back soon.
”Just trying to initiate the offense,” Middleton said. ”I’d much rather have my guys out there with me.”
Bucks: It was unclear before the game how time Antetokounmpo will miss. He wore a blazer and slacks and cheered from the bench. After the game, he grinned at a reporter who asked if he will play Saturday. ”You’ll have to ask the medical staff,” he said. … Bledsoe, the team’s third-leading scorer, missed his seventh straight game with a right shin injury. Budenholzer said Bledsoe will be out the next game, too. … Milwaukee is the only team to score at least 100 points in each game this season. The Bucks have hit the century mark in 57 straight.
Hawks: F Jabari Parker, the team’s third-leading scorer, was out with a right shoulder impingement. … C Alex Len missed the game with a left ankle sprain.
Milwaukee has won 10 of its past 11 games against Atlanta and is 3-0 this season to wrap up its third straight season series win over the Hawks.
IN THE HOUSE
Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose boxer Gervonta Davis fights for the WBA’s secondary lightweight title Saturday at State Farm Arena, watched the game from a courtside seat.
Bucks: Host Orlando on Saturday.
Hawks: At Chicago on Saturday.