Antetokounmpo, barrage of threes power Bucks past Pelicans
Facing the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks for the second time in two weeks, the prospect of a sweep was possible but the chances were slim.
That is because New Orleans was again without Brandon Ingram and without star center Jonas Valanciunas, not to mention Zion Williamson.
Meanwhile, the Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokuonmpo in a loss at New Orleans (116-112) in overtime on Dec. 17, had the MVP back on the floor Sunday night and that proved to be a huge problem and too much, make that way too much to overcome in a 136-113 loss at Milwaukee.
The Bucks won every quarter.
Antetokuonmpo showed why he is one of the elite players, if not the best player in the NBA.
Antetokuonmpo finished with a triple-double with 35 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Pelicans did not shoot well enough from the field and shot poorly from the free throw line. New Orleans finished at 41 percent from the field and just 62 percent from the free throw line.
Another part of the problem for New Orleans was shot selection.
The Pelicans took 95 shots from the field and 51 were from 3-point range.
The Bucks played zone quite a bit, inviting the Pelicans to shoot from distance and even in man-to-man looks, Milwaukee was content to let New Orleans flail away and the strategy paid off.
Jaxson Hayes continued his recent resurgence, scoring a career-high 23 points with six rebounds off the bench but there was no other real offensive force, despite the fact that seven Pelicans finished in double figures in scoring.
The Bucks shot it well at 53 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point range and 83 percent from the free throw line. The Bucks buried New Orleans from 3-point range, making 23-of-48 attempts.
That really was the difference as one team shot it well and one did not.
Of course, the real difference was the presence of Giannis, who simply dominated play.
Now 13-23, the good news is that the Pelicans return home for three straight games this week.
The bad news is that those games are against the three top teams in the Western Conference, starting with Utah Monday night, followed by Phoenix on Tuesday and Golden State on Thursday.
If you want to make the playoffs, you have to win at home.
That will not be easy against the quality of the opposition.
Of course, getting at least one key player back would make a difference as the Zion watch continues.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…