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Giannis Antetokounmpo returns, Bucks pull away late to beat Magic on road
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Giannis Antetokounmpo returns, Bucks pull away late to beat Magic on road

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Bucks guard Pat Connaughton goes up for a shot between Magic guard Jordan Bone and center Mo Bamba during the first half. Connaughton was 3-for-4 from the floor.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a one-game absence because of a minor back injury and scored 22 points as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Orlando Magic 121-99 on Monday night.

Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time NBA MVP, started slowly and battled through second-half foul trouble before coming alive in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee won a second straight and beat Orlando for a fifth consecutive time in the regular season.

“At the end of the day, I had five fouls, but I was just trying to play the game, go downhill and get my teammates involved,” said Antetokounmpo, who had six rebounds and four assists. “I was just wanting to execute down the stretch.”

Khris Middleton finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, while reserve Bobby Portis played well for a second straight game, scoring 20 points.

Nikola Vucevic had 28 points and 13 rebounds to lead the short-handed Magic, who have lost three straight since Markelle Fultz was lost to a season-ending knee injury. Aaron Gordon had 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds and contributed solid defense against Antetokounmpo.

“We felt like we played OK for three quarters and we were right there and then we just made too many mistakes on both ends of the fourth,” Vucevic said. “Milwaukee is a team that’s going to take advantage of it.”

Milwaukee missed 17 of its first 24 3-point shots but drilled six 3s in the fourth quarter. Seconds after Gordon spectacularly dunked over Antetokounmpo to get the Magic within 88-86, Milwaukee’s superstar forward hit a straight-on 3-pointer that quieted the pandemic-restricted crowd of 3,248. He followed that up by finding Portis for another 3 as the Bucks went on a 22-2 run.

“He puts in a lot of time and effort in and he’s growing in all ways,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It was just two big plays because the momentum could have swung on the (Gordon) dunk. It’s a huge momentum swing for him to make the 3 and then to create the open 3 for Bobby.”

The teams were playing for the first time since last August, when they squared off in a first-round playoff series in the bubble at Walt Disney World. Orlando won Game 1 of that series before Milwaukee captured the next four. Milwaukee also won the four regular-season meetings with Orlando last season.

Milwaukee led 63-54 at the half despite missing 13 of its first 17 3-point shots. The Bucks forced eight turnovers in the second quarter and 11 in the first half and turned those Magic mistakes into 17 points.

In the fourth quarter, the Magic shot 7 of 21, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

“The game was the first 3½ minutes of the fourth quarter where we had just poor possessions on offense, lack of purpose and fouling at the other end of the floor,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Bryn Forbes added 14 points and three 3s for Milwaukee, which shot 50.5% from the floor.

Augustin returns

Monday marked the Orlando return of D.J. Augustin, who played for the Magic the previous four seasons.

After drafting point guard Cole Anthony with the No. 15 pick, the Magic informed Augustin that they wouldn’t be pursuing him in free agency.

Augustin finished with eight points and four assists on Monday.

Up next

The Bucks play next at Detroit on Wednesday. The Bucks are 2-0 already this season against the Pistons.

Milwaukee 25 38 23 35 — 121

Orlando 23 31 28 17 — 99

MILWAUKEE — G.Antetokounmpo 8-16 4-7 22, Middleton 9-17 0-1 20, Lopez 2-6 1-1 6, DiVincenzo 4-7 0-0 9, Holiday 3-10 5-5 11, Nwora 0-1 0-0 0, Portis 9-13 0-0 20, T.Antetokounmpo 1-2 0-0 2, Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, Augustin 2-6 3-3 8, Connaughton 3-4 0-0 7, Forbes 4-7 3-3 14, Merrill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 46-91 16-20 121.

ORLANDO — Ennis III 1-3 0-0 3, Gordon 8-14 2-3 21, Vucevic 11-25 2-2 28, Anthony 4-13 3-3 12, Bacon 5-10 1-2 11, Clark 1-4 0-0 2, Ross 2-6 0-0 4, Bamba 3-7 2-3 8, Birch 1-3 0-0 2, Bone 3-6 0-0 8, Mane 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-91 10-13 99.

3-point goals — M 13-35 (Forbes 3-4, Portis 2-3, G.Antetokounmpo 2-4, Middleton 2-6, Connaughton 1-2, Augustin 1-3, DiVincenzo 1-3, Lopez 1-4, Holiday 0-4), O 11-31 (Vucevic 4-10, Gordon 3-4, Bone 2-4, Ennis III 1-2, Anthony 1-4, Bamba 0-2, Ross 0-2, Clark 0-3). Rebounds — M 43 (Middleton 10), O 44 (Vucevic 13). Assists — M 25 (Augustin, G.Antetokounmpo 4), O 24 (Gordon 8). Total fouls — M 17, O 13. Att. — 3,248.

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