NBA regular season

Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s big night, Bucks fall to Rockets


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Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s big night, Bucks fall to Rockets

BIG GAME. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (center) attempts to control the ball as Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (left) and Jeff Green defend.

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks shave a 21-point deficit but the Rockets recover in time to pull through

Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr. posted double-doubles and teamed for a critical late three-pointer as the Houston Rockets fended off the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, 112-108, on Saturday, January 6 (Sunday, January 7, Manila time).

Sengun paired 21 points with 11 rebounds while Smith added 14 points and 12 boards as Houston capped a seven-game homestand at 3-4. 

After Milwaukee shaved what was once a 21-point deficit to 102-99 on a pair of Giannis Antetokounmpo free throws with 1:50 left in the game, Sengun fed Smith for a corner three-pointer 18 seconds later to help the Rockets secure the victory.

Antetokounmpo was exceptional, finishing with 48 points and 17 rebounds. But Damian Lillard (18 points, 8 assists) and Khris Middleton (10 points, 5 assists) combined to shoot just 8-for-25 – including 1-for-13 on 3-pointers – as the Bucks lost for the third time in four games.

Seven Rockets scored in double figures, with Jalen Green and Jeff Green scoring 16 points apiece while Fred VanVleet added 14 points and 7 assists.

Trailing by 20 at the intermission, Milwaukee found a rhythm early in the third quarter, using a 10-3 burst to claw back into contention while the Rockets committed four personal fouls by the 10:09 mark. 

Yet despite a Herculean effort from Antetokounmpo, who scored half of the Bucks’ 30 third-quarter points, Milwaukee could not shave the deficit to single digits.

From a VanVleet alley-oop to Jalen Green, an Aaron Holiday three-pointer and paint baskets from Amen Thompson and Sengun, the Rockets fashioned a response to every Bucks rally and led 89-73 to open the fourth. Holiday scored 11 points off the bench for Houston.

Two first-half runs provided the Rockets with the working margin they used to their benefit throughout the second half. 

After starting 1-for-8 from the floor in the first period, Houston closed that frame with a 13-0 run that yielded a 29-18 lead entering the second.

Rookie Cam Whitmore (12 points) was a key contributor during the surge, producing a three-point play and a spinning layup past Lillard. The Bucks fought the Rockets to a standstill for most of the second period until Houston extended its lead with another quarter-closing run.

The Bucks recorded only three field goals over the final 5:59 of the first half, and the Rockets took advantage with a 20-8 rally that resulted in a 63-43 halftime lead.

VanVleet, who stroked a pair of threes, Sengun and Jalen Green combined for all 20 points during the run. Houston closed the half with a plus-seven rebounding margin, committed only two turnovers and recorded 24 bench points. –

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