MILWAUKEE (AP) — Rui Hachimura had 26 points, Kristaps Porzingis scored 22 and the Washington Wizards defeated the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks 118-95 on Sunday night for their season-best fifth consecutive victory.
The scuffling Bucks played without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out due to left knee soreness. Antetokounmpo is averaging 38 points and 14.6 rebounds over his last six games, which included a 43-point, 20-rebound performance in Friday night’s win over Minnesota that snapped Milwaukee’s four-game losing streak.
Jrue Holiday also missed the game with an illness, and Khris Middleton sat out for the eighth consecutive game due to right knee soreness.
“Your objective is to dominate whoever is in front of you,” Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma said. “If guys aren’t playing, you’re supposed to beat those teams.”
Daniel Gafford had 17 points for the Wizards (17-21), who weren’t at full strength, either. They played without leading scorer Bradley Beal, who is dealing with left hamstring soreness.
Bobby Portis led Milwaukee with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jevon Carter had 14 points and Grayson Allen added 13 points and eight assists.
Washington led 34-17 after the first quarter, paced by Gafford’s 13 points, as the Wizards exploited a two-center lineup with Bucks big man Brook Lopez on the bench early with foul trouble.
“I was sticking with the flow of the game, having confidence and going up with the shots that I was taking,” Gafford said. “I felt comfortable taking those shots.”
Milwaukee shot 26% overall and just 3 of 14 from long range in the period, while the Wizards connected on half their shots.
“We took advantage whenever we had the chance,” Gafford said of the size advantage. “Whoever went to the basket, we got a bucket. They didn’t have too many shot blockers out there so we just attacked the basket.”
Washington had 72 points in the paint.
“That’s a little bit unusual, not the norm,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We usually protect the rim and protect the paint well.”
Two quick first-quarter fouls on Lopez caused problems for the Bucks.
“I think his early foul trouble threw us off a little bit,” Budenholzer said.
Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said his team’s effort on defense set the tone.
“We got the defense into the game early and that helped us get out to that lead,” he said.
The Wizards led by 26 in the second quarter and held a 68-50 advantage at halftime. Washington shot 57.4% in the first half, while Milwaukee connected on just 34.6% of its shots.
Washington remained easily in control throughout the second half as the cold-shooting Bucks failed to mount any sustained runs.
Wizards: F Taj Gibson sat out a second consecutive game with left groin soreness. “We don’t want to push it to the point where this could be something that would last much longer than it should,” Unseld said. … Gafford, who came in averaging 7.1 points per game, scored Washington’s first eight points.
Bucks: G George Hill also missed the game due to illness. … Joe Ingles was assessed a first-quarter technical foul after exchanging words with Porzingis, who also received a technical. … Milwaukee lost for just the fourth time in 19 home games this season.
With five consecutive wins, the Wizards have been able to get past a 10-game losing streak that started in November and stretched to mid-December. “By not overreacting, now we’re back and we’re putting some wins together,” Porzingis said. “We have some pretty good rhythm.”
The teams face each other again Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
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