Bucks extend streak to 12, reach for new heights

MILWAUKEE — After a 29-point, 15-rebound performance in 22 minutes, Giannis Antetokounmpo stretched out in front of his locker using leg recovery technology while recapping highlights from the Milwaukee Bucks‘ latest 132-88 win against the New York Knicks on his phone.

By halftime, the game was well out of reach as the Knicks faced its largest deficit of the season after trailing by 27 points, but a first-half dunk by teammate Khris Middleton brought a smile to his and teammate George Hill‘s faces when they rewatched the reaction from the bench.

Milwaukee would continue to pound the Knicks en route to grabbing hold of the league’s best record (18-3), in addition to handing New York its largest loss.

“We’ve got to do our job. It starts with the coaching staff, it starts with the leader. We’re not coming here and thinking about the 12 games we won,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re thinking about, ‘how can I do my job? how can I win tonight?’ And that’s the most important thing. We’ve got Detroit next, how can we win in Detroit? How can we go in there and play good basketball and win.

“What we did it for 12 games, I know we’re playing great basketball, everybody’s having fun but that’s in the past. We’ve got to keep getting better, keep improving our game, keep improving as a team, because at the end of the day we try to translate everything we do right now at the end of the year. We’ve got to keep taking steps forward.”

Last season, the Bucks were 15-6 through 21 games but the 18-3 matches the franchise’s best ever start through 21 games with the 1970-71 and 1971-72 teams. That 1971 team also won the title led by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“I’m really happy to see the Milwaukee franchise doing well and contending,” Abdul-Jabbar told ESPN. “It’s a whole lot of fans here that have really been starving for a dominant team and it seems like they’ve got one now and I hope they put all the pieces together this year and do a little bit better.”

On the other hand, even diehard Knicks fans have lost hope in the squad. New York has now dropped seven consecutive games — which is their worst streak of this season. The Knicks were held to 30.8 percent shooting on the night.

“Early prediction, Greek Freak goes crazy,” rapper Fat Joe told ESPN ahead of the tip-off, with a laugh.

“They ain’t turning nothing around this year,” he added of the Knicks.

Meanwhile, the Bucks have won 12 straight games for the first time since Jan-Feb, 1982. The 44-point win also marked the fifth time in league history that a team has won consecutive games by 40 or more, after beating the Hornets by 41 in their last game.

Middleton re-entered the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the last three to end with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Antetokounmpo also dished out three assists on 10-for-14 shooting with three treys. He posted 16 points with 10 rebounds in the first two quarters, which was the first time this season he’s had a double-double at halftime.

D.J. Wilson also contributed a career-best 19 points with five rebounds. Julius Randle led the Knicks with 19 points.

But deeper than statistics or streaks, the red-hot Bucks say they are locked in on maintaining good habits.

“Just at halftime, (coach Mike Budenholzer) comes in and keeps reminding us to play the right way,” Middleton said of maintaining an edge. “Don’t let our guards down like we have in the past. Just keep playing defense, keep playing the right way, keep running the offense and build great habits.”

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