Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo drive past San Antonio Spurs' Jeremy Sochan during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 130-94. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes as the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 130-94 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
The Bucks extended their Eastern Conference advantage to 2½ games over the Boston Celtics as they prepare for a four-game road swing that includes a matchup Saturday with the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets.
“I’ve never in my career believed in seeding, but we’re No. 1 right now, we should just take it,” Antetokounmpo said. “We should just keep on building good habits, take it and maybe it helps us in a playoff run.”
Antetokounmpo rested the entire fourth quarter and watched the Bucks put the finishing touches on their most lopsided win of the season.
“They’ve got their culture down,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They’re confident. They know they can do it if they play the right way, which they do most of the time. Tonight was a good example. I’d love to be able to play them every night. It would be great for our young kids to see how it gets done and how mistakes are made and what’s important.”
Bobby Portis and Khris Middleton added 19 points each for the Bucks, who never trailed. Middleton also had 10 assists, while Portis had 10 rebounds.
Devin Vassell scored 16 points to lead the Spurs.
San Antonio was playing for a second straight night and was missing leading scorer Keldon Johnson for a second consecutive game due to a neck strain. The Spurs also didn’t have usual starter Tre Jones, who was out with a sore left foot after playing Tuesday in a 119-84 loss at New Orleans.
After trailing by 13 in the first quarter, San Antonio got within two points a couple of times in the second period. But after Keita Bates-Diop’s three-point play cut Milwaukee’s lead to 51-49 with 2:41 left in the second, the Bucks outscored the Spurs 15-2 to close the first half.
That spurt included consecutive dunks by Antetokounmpo, the first coming on a putback and the second on an alley-oop from Middleton. Milwaukee capped the run with 3-pointers from Pat Connaughton and Joe Ingles, who beat the buzzer with his shot from the corner in front of the Bucks’ bench.
The Bucks then poured it on in the second half.
“They’ve got young guys who play hard, so we knew obviously coming into it they were going to do that — play hard, play the right way,” said Ingles, who scored 14 points and shot 4 of 6 from 3-point range. “We had some turnovers early. I think in the third and fourth, we started to get some more stops, made some more shots and obviously were able to push that lead out a little bit.”
Spurs: Sandro Mamukelashvili got a warm reception from the Fiserv Forum crowd as he faced Milwaukee for the first time since the Bucks waived him March 1. Mamukelashvili had 12 points and seven rebounds. “He’s European, which makes me love him right off the bat because I think those guys are unbelievably well-coached and overall understand the game better than most of us here,” Popovich said before the game. “He moves without the ball. He shoots it pretty well. He can pass. He’s got good speed. I like everything about him.” … The Spurs shot just 9 of 39 from 3-point range.
Bucks: Jae Crowder missed a third straight game with a sore left calf. “He’s making good progress,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. “Hopefully he continues in a positive direction. When he’s ready, they’ll let us know, but I think it’s relatively short and in the near future.” … Goran Dragic remains out with a sore left knee and still hasn’t made his Bucks debut since signing on March 4. Meyers Leonard missed a second straight game with a sore left calf. … Ingles has gone 30 of 52 from 3-point range this month.
Spurs: At Washington on Friday for the third game of a four-game trip. The Spurs lost at home to the Wizards 127-106 on Jan. 30.
Bucks: At Utah on Friday to open a four-game trip. The Bucks beat the Jazz 123-97 in Milwaukee on Dec. 17. ___
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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