Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks hold off Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks hold off Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is defended by Clippers' Patrick Beverley during the first half Wednesday night. 

LOS ANGELES — The numbers are adding up quickly for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The reigning NBA MVP had 38 points and 16 rebounds to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 129-124 on Wednesday night for their fourth victory in a row.

It's what he's done to start the season that really stands out.

Antetokounmpo became the first player in league history with 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in the first eight games of a season.

"He played the whole fourth quarter and was fabulous," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Antetokounmpo had 13 points in 12 minutes during the fourth as Milwaukee repelled several threats by the Clippers, who kept getting within four only to come up short.

"Guys were physical with me but at the end of the day you've just got to keep doing what you're doing," Antetokounmpo said. "I was trying to make plays, try to stay aggressive. That's what my teammates wanted me to do."

Antetokounmpo just missed a triple-double with nine assists. He's posted at least 10 rebounds and five assists in each of the first eight games this season, the first player to do that since at least 1972-73.

"He's a beast," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

George Hill scored 24 points off the bench and hit six of the Bucks' 18 3-pointers.

The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard, who rested for the first half of a home back-to-back. He'll play against Portland on Thursday night.

"When he sits out we've just got to step up," said Lou Williams, who had 34 points and 11 assists.

Montrezl Harrell had a career-high 34 points and 13 rebounds in his first start of the season.

"It don't mean nothing," he said in a low voice. "We lost."

Patrick Beverley added 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Clippers' first home defeat.

Led by Hill and Kyle Korver with 14 points, the Bucks' reserves outscored the Clippers' bench 47-20, the first time that's happened to Los Angeles this season. Harrell and Williams being in the starting lineup reduced much of the bench production.

Los Angeles starter Landry Shamet had just two points coming into the fourth, but made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. The last one put the Clippers within two with 23 seconds left.

"If we came up with one or two more stops, the game might have been different," Harrell said.

The Bucks finished it off at the free throw line, and the Clippers couldn't connect on multiple chances during their last possession.

"They had us on our heels the whole game," Williams said. "We just weren't as sharp as we'd like to be."

The Clippers closed within four early in the fourth, but Antetokounmpo reeled off seven straight points to keep the Bucks ahead 115-103.

"I just know he's always around the rim," former Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe said of Antetokounmpo. "Even though it's a bad play or whatnot, he's going to be under the rim, so I just find a way to get it to him."

Bledsoe added 20 points, and Brook Lopez had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks.

The Clippers erased an 11-point deficit in the third. They forced three ties, but each time Antetokounmpo answered for the Bucks. He dunked, hit a 3-pointer and made two free throws.

Milwaukee outscored the Clippers 15-6 to take a 98-89 lead into the fourth.

The Bucks opened the second on a 30-11 run, hitting five 3-pointers, for their largest lead of 17 points. Hill scored 14 to help the Bucks lead 70-59 at halftime. They closed with three consecutive 3s, two by Hill and the last by Korver, who beat the buzzer.

The Bucks took 49 3-pointers. Antetokounmpo tied his career high with four, the same number Bledsoe and Korver made.

"It makes a big difference," Budenholzer said. "We hopefully can open up the court and it gives different guys driving lanes. We want to keep shooting them."

NBA OK with Leonard sitting

Leonard isn't healthy three weeks into the season, according to the NBA, which says that as a result the Los Angeles Clippers can rest their new superstar.

The Clippers host Portland on Thursday night, and Rivers said Leonard would play.

"Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday. "And, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine is comfortable with the team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time."

While not disputing the league's comments, Rivers also said Leonard "feels great."

"But he feels great because of what we've been doing and we're just going to continue to do it," the coach said. "There's no concern here."

Last week, Leonard missed a road-home back-to-back against Utah and San Antonio. Rivers said it doesn't mean that Leonard won't play in back-to-backs — the team has 11 remaining this season — but "early on we're going to keep to the same plan that we've kept to so far."

Added Harrell, "He's got to take care of his body like every other player on this team."

Rivers cited "a lot of minutes" that Leonard racked up last season while leading Toronto to its first NBA championship.

"I think Kawhi made a statement that he's never felt better," Rivers said. "It's our job to make sure he stays that way."

Leonard is averaging career highs in points (29.3), rebounds (7.3), assists (5.7), steals (2.3) and blocks (1.0) in six games so far this season, while averaging 30.5 minutes.

Paul George, the Clippers' other big acquisition during the summer, is still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. He is expected to participate in contact at practice soon.

"You could see he's very eager. He tried to sneak in one possession unsuccessfully," Rivers said. "He wants to play."

Budenholzer said Milwaukee manages Antetokounmpo in a similar way to Leonard.

"We're very conscientious of how we can keep him healthy and how we can keep him playing well, being proactive, being aggressive," he said. "It's not just the Clippers. A lot of teams are considering and doing things to make sure their whole roster is healthy."


Bucks: Antetokounmpo had two airballs: the first on a jumper to end the first quarter and the second on a free throw in the third. ... For the first time in three games, the Bucks didn't lead all the way — but they came close. The Clippers' only lead was by three points. ... Budenholzer said Hill got popped in the eye but is expected to be fine. 

Clippers: Starting F Patrick Patterson had just two points. ... Rivers remained stuck on 899 career wins.

Up next

The Bucks next visit the Utah Jazz on Friday, the third stop on their four-game trip.

Milwaukee 28 42 28 31 — 129

L.A. Clippers 30 29 30 35 — 124

MILWAUKEE — Middleton 3-13 7-8 13, G.Antetokounmpo 10-21 14-18 38, B.Lopez 4-12 3-4 11, Bledsoe 8-14 0-0 20, Matthews 0-2 0-0 0, Ilyasova 0-4 2-2 2, R.Lopez 3-6 1-2 7, Hill 9-14 0-0 24, DiVincenzo 0-2 0-0 0, Connaughton 0-1 0-0 0, Korver 5-9 0-0 14. Totals 42-98 27-34 129.

L.A. CLIPPERS — Shamet 5-10 0-0 14, Patterson 1-2 0-0 2, Harrell 13-25 8-12 34, Beverley 6-9 5-5 20, Williams 9-27 12-13 34, Harkless 0-4 1-2 1, Green 3-10 1-2 9, Zubac 3-4 2-2 8, Robinson 1-6 0-0 2, McGruder 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 41-98 29-36 124.

3-point goals — M 18-49 (Hill 6-7, G.Antetokounmpo 4-7, Korver 4-7, Bledsoe 4-8, Connaughton 0-1, DiVincenzo 0-2, Matthews 0-2, B.Lopez 0-3, R.Lopez 0-3, Ilyasova 0-4, Middleton 0-5), LAC 13-31 (Shamet 4-8, Williams 4-9, Beverley 3-4, Green 2-7, Patterson 0-1, Robinson 0-1, Harkless 0-1). Rebounds — M 54 (G.Antetokounmpo 16), LAC 54 (Harrell 13). Assists — M 18 (G.Antetokounmpo 9), LAC 21 (Williams 11). Total fouls — M 28, LAC 28. Att. — 19,068.



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