(AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks are extremely good with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Apparently, they also are pretty good without them.
The Bucks, who entered Sunday tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the NBA, routed the visiting Utah Jazz 123-97 on Saturday while Antetokounmpo and Middleton sat out because of knee soreness.
Milwaukee, which rebounded from a 41-point road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, will visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
“We were all disappointed in our effort, virtually everything with the way we played the other night,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “I think we all felt we were going to come in and show a much better effort.”
Bobby Portis started in Antetokounmpo’s place and led the Bucks with 22 points and 14 rebounds. He scored 15 of his points in the first quarter.
“I put a lot of work in and the game is starting to slow down for me,” Portis said. “It’s fun to see my development and cool to have teammates and coaches that trust me, for sure.”
Former Pelican Jrue Holiday had 21 points and eight assists for Milwaukee, rookie MarJon Beauchamp added 18 points and Sandro Mamukelashvili, who is on a two-way contract and played in the G-League on Friday night, had six assists and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.
“Without Giannis playing tonight, I thought he had a huge impact on the game,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Mamukelashvili. “Just his effort on the offensive glass, the ground he was covering, he was just going and getting it.”
Budenholzer said that Joe Ingles is expected to make his Milwaukee debut against New Orleans. The Bucks signed the former Utah Jazz forward in the offseason and he has been rehabilitating from surgery to repair a knee injury that occurred Jan. 30.
The Pelicans left home a week ago after winning seven consecutive games, but they return having lost a season-worst three in a row – two at Utah and one at Phoenix.
On Saturday night, they lost a 24-point lead in a 118-114 loss to the Suns, who were led by Devin Booker’s 58 points.
New Orleans held an 83-59 near the midway point of the third quarter, but the lead was reduced to five points after a Phoenix run of 25-6 to close the period. Booker scored 25 consecutive Suns points during a stretch covering part of the third and fourth quarters.
“He put on a clinic,” Pelicans forward Zion Williamson said of Booker. “It felt like (he made) every shot he shot. Not only were they good shots, but he was just hitting. Despite that, we still should have won that game. Small mistakes that were made on our part that took us out of the game again.”
New Orleans trailed by two points with less than two minutes remaining and missed a chance to tie when Larry Nance Jr. missed two free throws with 1:52 on the clock. Chris Paul answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to put Phoenix in control.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said “second-chance points were definitely big for them” after Phoenix outscored New Orleans 17-5 on second chances.
–Field Level Media