By ANDREW GRUMAN, Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The game was already well in hand for the Milwaukee Bucks, but a thunderous dunk by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final minute provided an exclamation point on a successful stretch of three home games in four days.
Antetokounmpo finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and the Bucks beat the Utah Jazz 117-100 on Saturday night for their third consecutive victory.
Milwaukee is five games over .500 for the first time since Feb. 28, 2015, and is off to its best start through 25 games since also starting 15-10 in the 2005-06 season.
“As a team, we’re growing up and understanding what it takes to win in this league,”
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s not easy. The week didn’t start off well for us (with a loss to Boston) but we ended it on a positive note. Now we turn the page to another week with another three in four.”
The Bucks built a 22-point lead early in the fourth and held on after the Jazz pulled within single digits.
Antetokounmpo scored 24 points in the second half, drawing chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the home crowd on multiple occasions. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe each added 20 points.
“Coming out of the half, we talked here in the meeting, we said we got to finish this game and not give them chances,” Antetokounmpo said. “So that was what I was trying to do, and that is why I came out playing hard.”
Milwaukee led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter before Utah went on a 19-5 run to pull to 44-42 on a pair of free throws by Ricky Rubio with 1:50 until halftime.
The Bucks scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a 51-42 advantage into the break.
“They had their way with us early,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “If we start games like that, it is very difficult to come back on the road against a good team.”
Milwaukee opened the second half on a 10-3 run and took a 61-45 lead on Antetokounmpo’s basket.
The Bucks built a 22-point fourth-quarter advantage, but Utah pulled to 95-86 on a 3-pointer by Donovan Mitchell with 4:05 to play. Bledsoe answered with a triple on the other end, and the Bucks closed out the game on a 22-14 run.
Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 20 points and nine rebounds. Alec Burks added 20 points.
“The way we started the game was terrible,” Mitchell said. “We came out flat, gave up transition points that we never give up. We just didn’t look like us.”
Jazz: Guard Rodney Hood missed his seventh straight game with left ankle soreness. … Guard Raul Neto left the game in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms and did not return.
Bucks: Guard Tony Snell sat out for the second consecutive night with left patella tendinitis. … Listed as questionable prior to the game, guard Matthew Dellavedova remained out with left knee tendinitis. … Guard Gary Payton II made his second straight start in place of Snell and played a season-high 23 minutes.
The trio of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe combined to score 227 points during Milwaukee’s three-game winning streak. The Bucks are 11-4 since acquiring Bledsoe from Phoenix on Nov. 7.
NOT THE SAME
After hitting a franchise-record 18 shots from beyond the arc in a 121-108 win over the Bucks on Nov. 26, the Jazz were 8 of 23 on 3-pointers Saturday.
Jazz: Utah continues its six-game trip at Chicago on Wednesday night.
Bucks: At New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Ingles 4-9 1-2 12, Favors 5-11 3-3 14, Gobert 6-8 8-14 20, Rubio 2-7 6-6 10, Mitchell 4-17 2-2 12, Sefolosha 1-2 1-2 3, O’Neale 0-2 3-4 3, Jerebko 3-5 0-0 6, Neto 0-2 0-0 0, Burks 8-13 2-4 20. Totals 33-76 26-37 100.
Middleton 8-13 2-2 20, Antetokounmpo 14-22 8-9 37, Henson 4-7 3-4 11, Bledsoe 7-14 3-4 20, Payton II 2-5 0-0 4, Maker 2-5 2-2 6, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Vaughn 1-1 0-0 3, Brogdon 6-13 4-5 16, Liggins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 44-81 22-26 117.
3-Point Goals_Utah 8-23 (Ingles 3-6, Burks 2-4, Mitchell 2-6, Favors 1-3, Sefolosha 0-1, O’Neale 0-1, Rubio 0-2), Milwaukee 7-17 (Bledsoe 3-6, Middleton 2-3, Vaughn 1-1, Antetokounmpo 1-1, Payton II 0-1, Maker 0-2, Brogdon 0-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Utah 35 (Gobert 9), Milwaukee 41 (Antetokounmpo 13). Assists_Utah 20 (Rubio 7), Milwaukee 22 (Antetokounmpo 7). Total Fouls_Utah 23, Milwaukee 29. Technicals_Sefolosha. A_16,675 (18,717).