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Bucks’ Antetokounmpo scores 23 in return from back injury

By AFP - Dec 31,2019 - Last updated at Jan 03,2020

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks slams a reverse dunk against the Chicago Bulls during their NBA game in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday (AFP photo by Jonathan Daniel)

LOS ANGELES — Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed two games with a back injury, tallied 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks breezed to a 123-102 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Khris Middleton scored a team-high 25 points and Eric Bledsoe scored 15 points in his return from a leg injury for the first place Bucks, who won their third consecutive game.

Reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo had missed the previous two games because of back soreness, while Bledsoe had not played since December 13.

Antetokounmpo, the league’s second-leading scorer with an average of 30.5 points per game, played just 27 minutes and sat out the final five because of the one-sided margin.

“We won 30 games before January; It’s cool, but we can always do better,” Antetokounmpo said of the Bucks who have the best record in the league at 30-5. “We’ve got to keep improving because the goal is to play late in the season.”

Bulls guard Zach LaVine scored a team-high 19 points, Lauri Markkanen added 18 points and Wendell Carter finished with a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Milwaukee shot a superb 71 per cent from the field in the third quarter, putting the game out of reach by outscoring the Bulls 40-25 to increase their lead to 95-77. 

Bucks guard Wesley Matthews sat out with a bruised right thigh.

“He’s been playing through it and I think it’s at a stage where him not playing is the right move,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Hopefully, it’s just a short-term thing.”

Elsewhere, Jordan McRae scored 29 points as the short-handed Washington Wizards snapped the Miami Heat’s five-game winning streak with a 123-105 win.

Garrison Mathews scored 28 and Ian Mahinmi added a career-high 25 points for the Wizards.

Jimmy Butler scored 27 points, and Bam Adebayo added 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Heat, who had been riding the league’s longest win streak. 

Mathews scored 20 points in the second quarter for the Wizards who entered the game having lost nine of 11.

Washington were missing seven players due to injuries, including two-time all-star shooting guard Bradley Beal, who is out with a sore right knee. Beal leads the team in scoring (27.8 points) and assists (6.7). 

Beal had played 194 straight games before missing the past two contests. 

The Wizards also played without John Wall (foot), Davis Bertans (quad), starting centre Thomas Bryant (foot), rookie Rui Hachimura (groin), C.J. Miles (wrist) and Moritz Wagner (ankle). 

In Minneapolis, Shabazz Napier scored eight of his season-high 24 points in overtime as the Minnesota Timberwolves ended a nine-game home losing skid with a 122-115 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

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