Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 29 points in the first quarter, returning to the lineup after a five-game absence to lead the Milwaukee Bucks in a 150-130 win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
The two-time MVP had been out with a sore left knee and was joined by three-time All-Star Khris Middleton, putting the Bucks’ prolific duo in the same lineup for the first time in more than a month.
‘The band is back together,’ Antetokounmpo said.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (L) returned after a five-game absence to lead the Bucks to a win
Middleton, who hadn’t played since December 15 due to a sore right knee, had eight points and four assists as a steadying presence for the Central Division-leading Bucks.
‘It was great to see everyone playing together with no real chemistry issues,’ said Bucks center Brook Lopez, who scored 21 points.
Milwaukee scored 49 points in the first quarter, two shy of the NBA record, and led Detroit by 25 after Antetokounmpo made all six of his shots in eight-plus minutes.
‘I was trying to be aggressive and some shots fell,’ he said.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (R) drives on Detroit Pistons forward Isaiah Livers
After drawing defenders, Antetokounmpo also had two assists along with two rebounds in the opening quarter.
‘It was impressive to come out and play the way he did,’ Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. ‘He did a little bit of everything, just like the whole group that in that quarter.’
Antetokounmpo didn’t keep up his scoring pace the rest of the game, but he didn’t have to with teammates such as reserve Bobby Portis scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter.
Milwaukee led 83-55 at halftime, had 115 after three quarters and finished with a season high in points in a game that wasn’t competitive beyond the opening minutes.
‘The first quarter is what I was afraid would happen,’ Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. ‘A championship-caliber team came in and put their stamp on the game at the beginning. We didn´t respond, and that´s how you give up a 49-point first quarter. I liked our fight after that, but this is a 48-minute game.’
Mercifully, the Bucks held the ball and were called for a shot-clock violation in the final seconds when they were three points from matching the most by an NBA team this season.
Antetokounmpo (34) drives on Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) in the first half
‘I´m sure the basket looked big for them,’ Budenholzer said.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 33 points and rookie Jalen Duren had a season-high 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, who have won an Eastern Conference-low 12 games and are ahead of only Houston in the league-wide standings.
Detroit rookie Jaden Ivey had 12 points and 11 assists, and Hamidou Diallo added 11 points off the bench.
‘The challenge at that point is looking at the scoreboard and telling yourself there´s no 31-point shot,’ said Detroit´s Saddiq Bey, who scored 21 points.
The Pistons honored the late Bob Lanier throughout the game. The Hall of Famer, who played his 14-season career with Detroit and Milwaukee, died in May at age 73.
There was also a moment of silence for Chris Ford, who started his career with Detroit before winning three NBA titles in Boston as a player and assistant coach. Ford, who made the first 3-pointer in league history, died last week at age 74.
MAGIC 113, CELTICS 98
Paolo Banchero scored 23 points, Jonathan Isaac played in an NBA game for the first time in two-and-a-half years and Orlando broke Boston’s nine-game winning streak.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 26 points apiece for the Celtics, who managed just three points after Tatum’s 3-pointer cut Orlando’s lead to 97-95 with 6:20 remaining.
Wendell Carter Jr. had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic. Cole Anthony came off the bench with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Isaac missed 211 games since tearing his ACL in the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World on August 2, 2020. He finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two steals, playing about 9 1/2 minutes.
Magic Jonathan Isaac looks for a path to the basket against Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown (7)
ROCKETS 119, TIMBERWOLVES 114
Jalen Green scored a career-high 42 points and the Houston held on to beat Minnesota and snap a 13-game losing streak.
Green, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, had 21 points by halftime and kept up his strong play in the second half to lead the Rockets to their first victory since December 26 at Chicago. They ended their longest skid of the season and also a 10-game home losing streak, winning at home for the first time since December 13 against Phoenix.
Anthony Edwards had 31 points and D’Angelo Russell tied a season high with 30 for the Timberwolves, who had won two straight.
Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) makes a layup against the Minnesota Timberwolves
BULLS 111, HAWKS 100
DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points in his 1,000th career game, Nikola Vucevic added 14 points and 17 rebounds and Chicago beat Atlanta.
The Bulls returned to Chicago after 126-108 win over the Pistons in Paris on Thursday.
Trae Young had 21 points and 13 assists, while Dejounte Murray added 20 points for the Hawks, who have lost two straight after winning five in a row.
DeMar DeRozan (R) of the Chicago Bulls shoots against Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Hawks
JAZZ 120, HORNETS 102
Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points and the Utah Jazz beat the cold-shooting Charlotte Hornets 120-102 on Monday night.
The Hornets made only two 3-pointers, both by Terry Rozier, the fewest by an NBA team this season. Charlotte had 16 attempts beyond the arc, shooting 12.5 percent, while the Jazz made 16 of 40. The previous low for Charlotte this season was five 3s, most recently on December 3 at Milwaukee.
Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points and Mike Conley added 14 for the Jazz, who have won three of four.
Utah forward Lauri Markkanen (R) drives around Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington
TRAILBLAZERS 147, SPURS 127
Damian Lillard had 37 points and 12 assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the San Antonio Spurs 147-127 on Monday night to stop a three-game losing streak.
Jusuf Nurkic added 25 points and 11 rebounds for the struggling Blazers, who had lost eight of their previous 10 games.
Keldon Johnson scored 20 points for the Spurs, who have lost seven of their last eight games and sit second-to-last in the Western Conference standings, just above the Houston Rockets.
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) dunks over San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins (23)
KINGS 133, GRIZZLIES 100
Trey Lyles scored a season-high 24 points, Harrison Barnes had 15 of his 20 in Sacramento’s record-tying first quarter and the Kings beat the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies 133-100 on Monday night.
The Kings tied the NBA record with 12 3-pointers in the first quarter — in just 13 attempts — and scored 47 points. But Sacramento didn’t put away the game until outscoring Memphis 33-10 in the fourth quarter.
Lyles was 6 for 8 from 3-point range for the Kings (27-19), who have won seven of their last eight games.
Domantas Sabonis finished with 14 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his sixth triple-double of the season. Sabonis leads the NBA in double-doubles with 36.
Trey Lyles (R) of the Sacramento Kings shoots a three-point basket against the Grizzlies