The Milwaukee Bucks will shoot for their seventh consecutive win, and first on the season against Miami, when the Heat visit on Saturday.
Milwaukee scored its sixth straight victory Thursday when it held the Los Angeles Clippers to 18 fourth-quarter points and recorded the game’s final seven points — all by Giannis Antetokounmpo — to pull out a 106-105 win. Antetokounmpo scored the Bucks’ final 12 points to give him 54 for the night.
It was the two-time Most Valuable Player’s third 50-plus-point effort of the season and second in five days.
“Trust my skills. Trust my instincts,” Antetokounmpo said, referring to his scoring approach. “I started the game 1-for-7. I wasn’t good at (creating offense early). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work well. But at the end of the day, I try to be aggressive. I know it’s going to be a long game. There’s going to be a lot of open shots. I just have to shoot them with confidence.”
Antetokounmpo has shown that confidence of late. He has scored at least 33 points in five consecutive games, including a 50-point performance Jan. 29 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
He sits third in the NBA in scoring for the season at 32.3 points per game, and leads the league in rebounding at 12.3 a contest following his 19-board outing against the Clippers.
Thursday also was a big day for the Bucks’ Khris Middleton in his return from a lengthy absence due to a knee injury. Middleton logged his most time since rejoining the Milwaukee rotation Jan. 23, coming off the bench to score 16 points and grab seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
Neither the three-time All-Star Middleton nor Antetokounmpo played in Milwaukee’s back-to-back losses at Miami on Jan. 12 and 14. The Heat held the Bucks to two of their 10 lowest-scoring performances of the season while winning 108-102 and 111-95.
Miami comes into Saturday’s third pairing between the squads on the final leg of a four-game road swing. The Heat absorbed their second loss of the trip Thursday when they fell 106-104 at New York.
Bam Adebayo scored 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the loss, but Jimmy Butler was held to his second-lowest scoring effort of the season with 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the floor.
“We’re a better basketball team offensively when Bam and Jimmy are attacking,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Prior to opening the current road swing with a 117-112 loss at floundering Charlotte on Sunday, Miami won seven of nine. Butler produced games of 35 and 29 points over that stretch, both Heat wins.
Butler and Adebayo are neck-and-neck leading Miami in scoring at 21.7 and 21.6 points per game, respectively. Adebayo is averaging 22.1 points over the Heat’s last 11 contests.
Points should prove particularly precious Saturday with Miami and Milwaukee boasting top-five scoring defenses. The Bucks are holding opponents to 111.8 points per game, fifth-best in the NBA through games played Thursday. The Heat are giving up the second-lowest yield at 108.1 points a contest.