Bucks 133, Kings 127: Hot shooting and DiVincenzo's breakout help Milwaukee hold on

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Bucks forward Khris Middleton drives against  Kings guard Terence Davis on Saturday night.
Bucks forward Khris Middleton drives against Kings guard Terence Davis on Saturday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks went small on Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings and shot their way to a 133-127 victory at Fiserv Forum without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks had one of their better shooting nights of the season from behind the three-point line, making 21 threes to offset the absence of their star. They needed all of them, too, as the Kings wouldn’t go quietly behind the play of Oshkosh native Tyrese Haliburton.

Antetokounmpo (right knee soreness) missed his 10th game of the season and starting guard Grayson Allen (left hip soreness) missed his eighth, leading to George Hill and Pat Connaughton to start in their place.

Hill and Connaughton, leaders of the self-proclaimed “Bench Mob,” combined for 32 points on 8 of 15 shooting from behind the three-point line to team with Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis to lead the Bucks to their third straight victory.

Hill scored a season-high 17 and Connaughton tied a career high with four steals.

"I think they were great," Middleton said. "Pat hit some timely, big threes for us. Same thing with George, he got hot for a little stretch there. But George did a great job of controlling the team. He was at the point guard position on the ball and defensively just all over the place."

Box score: Bucks 133, Kings 127

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Donte DiVincenzo and Jordan Nwora paced the substitutes with 20 and 10 points, respectively. It was DiVincenzo’s best offensive game of the season since returning from ankle injuries and a stint in the health and safety protocol, as he was 6-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-5 from behind the three-point line.

“I think we all saw just a great, overall performance from Donte (on Friday) night and hopeful you can do it again,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We talk about getting back out and playing again the next night, so he was big for us.

“I thought Jordan (eight points) in the first quarter was huge. We kind of struggled early and couldn’t score and needed to get through some minutes and I thought he really helped us off the bench.”

Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo drives against Kings center Damian Jones during the second half Saturday night at Fiserv Forum.
Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo drives against Kings center Damian Jones during the second half Saturday night at Fiserv Forum.

DiVincenzo agreed and said that a lot of the little things he likes to do – like cutting and screening hard on offense – got him going against Chicago.

“That’s where I kind of felt good tonight,” he said. “There was a couple plays in the first half, getting Jrue an easy layup, getting Wes (Matthews) cutting. Just certain things playmaking, just starting to feel like myself. I’ve said before I’m not really worried about the makes and misses right now, it’s so early for me coming back. If I can control hat stuff and playmaking and feeling good about myself energy-wise I’ll be fine.”

Milwaukee is 30-19 overall. Sacramento lost its third straight to drop to 18-30.

The game was missing two of its biggest stars in Antetokounmpo (right knee soreness) and Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox (ankle), but Middleton and Holiday set the tone for the Bucks to outlast the Kings. Middleton tied a season-high with 34 points and Holiday had 26, which helped Milwaukee improve to 5-5 in games Antetokounmpo has missed.

Milwaukee also improved to 11-17 in games where one or more of its Big Three were out of action and 2-5 on the back end of back-to-backs.

Haliburton had 24 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for Sacramento. Barnes (29), Terence Davis II (22), Richaun Holmes (17) and Marvin Bagley II (13) also reached double digits for the Kings, but as a team they couldn’t score enough down the stretch to totally overcome the hosts.

The Bucks were connecting at well over 50% from beyond the three-point line through three quarters and then Middleton and Holiday scored 22 of their team’s 39 fourth-quarter points.

That included a key three-pointer by Middleton with 1 minute 9 seconds left after a pair of Haliburton free throws cut what was a 15-point Bucks lead down to 121-118.

“I mean, it’s why we feel like we’re one of the teams in the league that’s got a chance,” Budenholzer said. “You got multiple guys that can make clutch plays, clutch baskets and tough baskets and Khris has just done it so much. That’s what you need to win in this league.”

Middleton’s triple, his fifth of the game, gave the Bucks some breathing room. Harrison Barnes followed with a basket for the Kings, but Holiday responded with a rousing dunk with 47 seconds left.

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"It was a strong dunk for sure," Middleton said.

"I just had an opportunity, I think," Holiday said of his flush. "There was somebody in the corner coming down the left side and then there's nobody behind him and he opened up his stance, so I took advantage of that. Getting back to 'K,' I feel like this is what he's been doing; he makes timely threes, he makes big shots. Especially in that moment when they had momentum he just came down and laced 'em."

Holiday then kept a missed Haliburton three alive and tossed the ball off a Sacramento player to give possession to the Bucks with 34 seconds left.

DiVincenzo hit a pair of free throws to make it 128-120, and then Middleton effectively sealed the win with a steal and two free throws with 23.5 seconds left to put Milwaukee up 130-120.

The Bucks appeared to take control of the game in the third quarter when they hit 8 three-pointers and built out as much as a 15-point lead before taking a 94-86 lead into the fourth quarter. DiVincenzo hit three triples as Milwaukee was making 56.7% of its attempts from deep at one point.

Bucks guard Wesley Matthews receives medical attention after suffering a knee bruise in the third quarter. He did not return to the game.
Bucks guard Wesley Matthews receives medical attention after suffering a knee bruise in the third quarter. He did not return to the game.

There was an odd end to the quarter however, when Wesley Matthews went down in a heap on defense. He got up slowly and hopped down the court trying to keep weight off his left leg. The Bucks continued to play for several possessions with Matthews in clear pain before they finally called a timeout with 29 seconds left in the quarter. Matthews hobbled over to the scorers table and immediately went down again before eventually heading right to the locker room.

The team said he suffered a knee bruise and he did not return.

“I should’ve called a timeout,” Budenholzer acknowledged. “But he might have bit my head off if I called timeout to take him out, he’s kind of crazy. Yeah, it should’ve been a timeout by me. I thought it might have been just like a thing where it was going to kind of wear off but I think, you know, if I could go back and do it again I’d call a quicker timeout."

Milwaukee overcame some early hot shooting by Sacramento and a 12-point deficit to take a 62-54 lead into halftime. Middleton was hot early, too, making his first four shots of the game and 7-for-9 in the half for 17 points. Holiday had 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting while Nwora added 10.

Barnes led the Kings with 14 while Haliburton had eight with four assists.

The Kings used a 14-3 run about halfway through the first quarter to build a 28-17 lead with 3:22 to go. At that point, the Kings had made 5 of their 9 three-point attempts. They pushed the lead to 34-22 with 1:14 to go but Nwora and Middleton closed the quarter with five points to cut the deficit to 35-27 after one.

Hill hit back-to-back threes to get Milwaukee on the comeback trail early in the second quarter, leading a 13-5 run that tied the game 40-40 with 8:23 to go in the half. A Connaughton three gave the Bucks lead at 43-40 and from there they gradually built the lead to as many as nine.

Kings share special day with Haliburton

On Saturday, Haliburton strolled into Fiserv Forum wearing his Oshkosh North High School letterman’s jacket.

On Friday, he was honored by his alma mater by having his jersey retired and being inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame. Among those in attendance was his head coach with the Kings, Alvin Gentry.

“No. 1, I thought they did an unbelievable job with it,” Gentry said. “I thought it was extremely well done. I think you can see what he’s thought of in that community by the people that spoke there.

“Then I think you can see how grateful he is and how he is really embedded in the Oshkosh community with the things that he had to say about the people that helped him there. Just the respect that he has the coaches and the teachers.

“I talked to a couple of his teachers and they had really nothing but good things to say about him. I can understand that because if you’ve been around him you know the quality person that he is and I think he’s improving every day as a basketball player.”

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks 133, Kings 127: MIddleton scores 24; DiVincenzo breaks out

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