By STEVE MEGARGEE – AP sportswriter
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 17 rebounds on his return to action and the Milwaukee Bucks extended their recent championship over the Chicago Bulls with a 126-98 blowout Tuesday night.
Antetokounmpo missed the Bucks’ 138-119 loss in Minnesota on Saturday because of a sore right knee. Milwaukee played without all-star forward Khris Middleton, who was struggling with a sore left wrist.
“He fell in the Minnesota game and it was pretty sore and stiff so we went to have it looked at,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer before the game. “We have a feeling it’s short term but we’ll see how he feels over the next day or two.”
Jrue Holiday had a game-high 27 points, seven assists and no turnovers as the Bucks won for the 15th time in their last 16 meetings with the Bulls, including all three matchups this season. Chicago’s only win during that stretch came in the finals of the 2019-20 regular season when the Bucks rested their starters from being trapped in the East’s No. 3 playoff seed.
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“Jrue was Jrue,” said Antetokounmpo. “Jrue was aggressive, making good decisions, going downhill, getting everyone involved and guarding Zach (LaVine). Everyone did their job. Of course we knew Khris wasn’t playing and Khris is a big part of our team and what we’re doing here, but at the end of the day, even with the team we have, we’re a great team.”
Brook Lopez had 10 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes for Milwaukee after making his first start since the season opener. The 7-footer had jumped off the bench for the Bucks’ last three games after missing 67 with a back injury that required surgery.
The Bucks shot 61% from the floor and had seven players scoring in double digits. The Bulls only shot 42.4%.
“They took shots that we wanted them to take,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan. “It was a night where they really, really had it going. credit to her. And it was a night where we just didn’t shoot the ball very well.”
Nikola Vucevic had 22 points for the Bulls, who opened a five-game journey one night after a 113-99 win over the Toronto Raptors. DeMar DeRozan and LaVine each added 21 points as the Bulls lost for the ninth time in 12 games.
“At some point we have to get tired of getting our asses kicked like this and flip the switch of understanding, ok, enough is enough,” DeRozan said. “Now is the time to turn it around and show that desperation.”
Milwaukee took charge with a 23-4 sprint that started late in the first quarter and continued into the second.
After being 23 behind late in the second period, the Bulls cut the lead to 64-54 early in the third period. But the Bucks regrouped and withdrew again, eventually leading by as much as 35.
Milwaukee’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Tristan Thompson each suffered technical fouls late in the fourth quarter after getting into a brief tussle on a pass attempt.
Bulls: Patrick Williams remained on a minute limit in his second return leg after missing 65 with a torn ligament in his left wrist. He has played 18 minutes in each of the last two games. … DeRozan didn’t have a single free throw attempt. He was 17 of 18 out of line the last time the Bulls visited Milwaukee.
Bucks: George Hill has been fined $15,000 after being thrown out of Saturday’s loss for shoving Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley from behind. Beverley, who pushed Ibaka from behind earlier in the altercation, was fined $20,000. … Bulls fans made up a sizeable minority of the crowd, so Grayson Allen got a mix of loud cheers and boos whenever he was introduced. It was the Bulls’ first game in Milwaukee since Jan. 21, when Allen was kicked out for a flagrant foul on Alex Caruso, which caused the Bulls guard to miss 22 games with a broken right wrist. The teams faced off in Chicago on March 4th.
Bulls: Thursday in New Orleans. The Bulls defeated the Pelicans 128-112 on October 22 in Chicago.
Bucks: Host of the Washington Wizards on Thursday. The Bucks have shared two previous meetings with the Wizards.
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