Antetokounmpo's 42 points leads Bucks past Pelicans 128-119
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 42 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a one-game absence and the Milwaukee Bucks held off a late New Orleans surge to beat the Pelicans 128-119 on Monday night.
Brook Lopez mixed in four 3-pointers with opportunistic play in the paint to score 30 points for the Bucks, who led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter before the Pelicans pulled to 117-114 on CJ McCollum's fade away.
Former Pelicans star Jrue Holiday responded with a late 3 and Lopez scored soon after to virtually seal the result and ensure New Orleans' fourth straight loss on the heels of its seven-game winning streak.
Milwaukee maintained a double-digit lead for long stretches while frustrating Pelicans' star power forward Zion Williamson for most of the game.
Guarded primarily by Holiday, Williamson was limited to nine points through the first three quarters before scoring nine in the final 12 minutes to finish with 18 points.
Williamson's annoyance was evident when he was assessed a technical foul while speaking angrily to official John Conley in the third quarter. But his late surge helped fuel a 22-7 run.
Jonas Valanciunas scored a season-high 37 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for New Orleans, but he hit just one of his career high-tying seven 3-pointers in the second half.
Holiday finished with 18 points and 11 assists for the Bucks, who won for the 10th time in 13 games.
Joe Ingles made his Bucks debut in a reserve role after a nearly 11-month recovery from knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Playing for the first time since Jan. 30, when he was with Utah, Ingles saw 15 minutes of action but missed all four of his shots — all from 3-point range — and did not score.
With multiple Bucks defenders trying to wall off Williamson from the basket early on, the ball tended to find Valanciunas open on the perimeter. The Lithuanian big man hit 6 of 8 3-point attempts and scored 28 points in the first half alone — and New Orleans needed all of it to keep pace with the Bucks.
Antetokounmpo, returning from left knee soreness, scored 26 in the first half on an array of shots ranging from a 3, to a Eurostep layup amid a crowd of defenders, to a soaring alley-oop dunk.
Milwaukee led by as many as 11 points in the first half when Antetokounmpo's 3 made it 38-27. New Orleans cut it 2 points several times before the half ended with the Bucks up 66-61.