AP NEWS

Giannis-less Bucks overcome slow start to beat Bulls

March 24, 2018 GMT

CHICAGO — Shabazz Muhammad and fellow reserves Brandon Jennings and Tony Snell took care of the scoring with Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a sprained right ankle.

Muhammad scored 21 points and the Bucks overcame another sluggish start to beat the Chicago Bulls 118-105 on Friday night.

“The start of the game was a little bit rough for us,” Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty conceded.

“But I loved what our bench did. They were impressive down the stretch. Good win.”

The lottery-bound Bulls led by as much as 32-20 in the first quarter before Muhammad, Jennings and Snell came up big off the bench.

Snell matched his season-high with 18 points, while Jennings had 16 points and five assists to help the Bucks (38-34) move within a half-game of the seventh-place Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“Giannis is one of the best players in the world and he does so much for us,” Muhammad said. “We all had (to contribute). One guy isn’t going to replace him. That’s what we did.”

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with 20 points, and Cameron Payne had a career-high 17 points and six assists. The Bulls have lost four in a row.

Jennings had 10 points and three assists in the second period, which the Bucks opened with a 14-3 spurt for a 38-37 lead.

Snell scored eight points in the third period, which saw the Bucks extend their lead to 90-82.

Late starts and shoddy defense plagued Milwaukee in recent games, and this one was no different.

The Bulls connected on five of their first seven field goal tries to take a 15-4 lead less than four minutes into the game. They took a 34-24 advantage into the second period before the Bucks bench swung the momentum.

“I loved our effort, especially early,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We came into the game with the right mentality. I thought we really set the tone in the first quarter.”

The Bucks were optimistic that Antetokounmpo’s injury would not complicate their playoff run.

“I can’t give you an honest answer and say exactly when he’s coming back, but I believe it will be sooner rather than later,” Prunty said. “I don’t think it’s worthwhile speculating at this time.”

Antetokounmpo will be featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday. The segment will trace his unlikely rise from a gangly kid in Athens, Greece, to a 23-year-old NBA franchise player.

In the paint

The 3-point and paint areas have been the root of the Bucks’ problems on defense of late. At the start of the day, they ranked 23rd in opponents’ 3-point percentage and 24th in defensive rebounding percentage this month. ... Guard Matthew Dellavedova reported improvement in his sprained right ankle but there remained no timetable for his return. ... The Bucks next host San Antonio on Sunday.

Milwaukee 24 37 29 28 — 118

Chicago 34 27 21 23 — 105

MILWAUKEE — Middleton 5-14 4-4 16, Parker 3-10 0-0 6, Henson 5-10 0-0 11, Bledsoe 4-8 4-4 13, Brown 1-5 0-0 2, Maker 2-7 1-3 5, Jennings 5-11 4-4 16, Terry 3-4 1-1 10, Snell 6-6 2-2 18, Muhammad 9-12 1-1 21. Totals 43-87 17-19 118.

CHICAGO — Valentine 7-13 2-2 20, Markkanen 3-7 2-2 9, Felicio 4-10 3-4 11, Payne 6-12 3-3 17, Holiday 4-12 2-2 11, Vonleh 1-4 0-0 2, Portis 6-14 1-2 16, Arcidiacono 0-2 0-0 0, Grant 3-6 2-2 9, Nwaba 2-7 6-6 10. Totals 36-87 21-23 105.

3-point goals — M 15-30 (Snell 4-4, Terry 3-4, Muhammad 2-2, Jennings 2-6, Middleton 2-6, Henson 1-1, Bledsoe 1-3, Maker 0-1, Brown 0-3), C 12-26 (Valentine 4-7, Portis 3-4, Payne 2-4, Grant 1-1, Markkanen 1-2, Holiday 1-3, Nwaba 0-1, Arcidiacono 0-2, Vonleh 0-2). Rebounds — M 36 (Henson 12), C 52 (Felicio 12). Assists — M 27 (Middleton 6), C 21 (Payne 6). Total fouls — M 20, C 21. Technicals — Jennings, C coach Hoiberg (defensive 3 second), Payne. Att. — 21,698.