Streaking Bucks rebounding from slow start to season

Nov 29, 2021, 9:57 AM | Updated: 11:59 pm

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) slam-dunks the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)


The defending champions are beginning to look the part again.

It wasn’t long ago that the Milwaukee Bucks were languishing under .500, but after a seven-game winning streak, they’ve moved back toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Milwaukee’s run has been overshadowed a bit by Phoenix’s 16-game winning streak and Golden State’s 18-2 start to the season. Now, the Bucks — and their conference finals opponents, the Atlanta Hawks — are showing signs that they’ve shaken off their early struggles.

“At the start of this season, going through some trying times, I think we were all just happy it was at the beginning of the season,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “We know how this league goes, how the games go. It’s always ebbs and flows. We know that we can make a run at any time.”

The Bucks haven’t lost a game when Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have all played. Holiday missed about two weeks early in the season with a sprained ankle, and when he returned, Milwaukee blew a 21-point lead in a Nov. 5 loss to the Knicks.

When Milwaukee faced Atlanta in a conference finals rematch Nov. 14, the Hawks were on a six-game losing streak and the Bucks entered the game at 6-7 on the season. Atlanta won by 20, the start of a seven-game winning streak that pushed the Hawks back above .500. That run ended Saturday, but Milwaukee hasn’t lost since that blowout against Atlanta.

The Bucks’ streak began when Middleton returned from an eight-game COVID-related absence Nov. 17. Antetokounmpo scored 47 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

While the Warriors and Suns have opened up some distance on the rest of the West, the Bucks (13-8) are one of four teams within 1 1/2 games of East-leading Brooklyn (14-6). There have been some surprises at the top of the conference. Chicago (14-8) and Washington (13-8) have had early success after significant offseason changes, and Charlotte (13-10) isn’t far behind.

That’s not how the top half of the conference was necessarily expected to look, but it took a little while for Milwaukee to hit its stride, and even after its recent winning streak, Atlanta (11-10) isn’t above the play-in zone. Philadelphia (11-10) has lost 8 of 11.

It’s not a shock to see the Bucks look less than dominant from time to time. They finished with the seventh-best record in the league last season before winning the title as a No. 3 seed.

Recently, they’ve taken advantage of a fairly favorable schedule. The first five games of their winning streak were at home, when they faced the Lakers with LeBron James out, then Oklahoma City, Orlando twice and Detroit. Then they went on the road and beat Denver with Nikola Jokic ou t before winning at Indiana.

To their credit, the Bucks’ recent victories haven’t been all that close. The last four have been by 31, 21, 11 and 18 points.

“Maybe we just kind of wear ’em down with Khris and Giannis, then Jrue comes and one of them hopefully breaks the wall, breaks the dam,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’re able to get some separation.”

Three of Milwaukee’s last four opponents have scored 100 points or fewer.

“Just the connectivity, guys working and covering for each other and scrambling,” Budenholzer said. “Jrue at the front of the defense and I think Bobby (Portis) is improving and giving us lots of little things and plays and effort. Guys are just competing, trying to get stops.”

Milwaukee’s next game is Wednesday night at home against Charlotte, a matchup that will be a nice test for the Hornets. The highlight of the Bucks’ upcoming schedule, however, may be a pair of meetings with Miami (13-8) in a span of five days — on Saturday night at Milwaukee and then Dec. 8 at Miami.

When the teams met Oct. 21, the Heat won 137-95 over a Milwaukee team that was missing Holiday, Portis and Brook Lopez. Antetokounmpo and Middleton played less than half that game with the score out of hand.


Follow Noah Trister at


More AP NBA: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Minnesota defensive back Tyler Nubin, right, intercepts a pass intended for Purdue wide receiver TJ...
Associated Press

Spoilermakers: Purdue stifles No. 21 Minnesota for 20-10 win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Devin Mockobee rushed for 102 yards and a late touchdown to pad Purdue’s lead, and the Boilermakers defense fueled yet another takedown of a ranked opponent in a 20-10 victory over No. 21 Minnesota on Saturday. Cam Allen had two of Purdue’s three interceptions of Tanner Morgan, one in the end zone […]
13 hours ago
Boston College running back Alex Broome runs into the endzone to score against Louisville during th...
Associated Press

Jurkovec (3 TDS) leads Boston College past Louisville 34-33

BOSTON (AP) — Phil Jurkovec threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns and scrambled for a 33-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal on Saturday as Boston College knocked Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham out of the game and beat the Cardinals 34-33. Cunningham ran for three touchdowns and threw for another before finishing […]
13 hours ago
Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith (7) throws the ball during the first half of an NCAA college f...
Associated Press

No. 25 Kansas State holds off Texas Tech 37-28

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Adrian Martinez rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score, leading No. 25 Kansas State past Texas Tech 37-28 on Saturday. Martinez was 12-for-19 passing for 116 yards for Kansas State (4-1, 2-0 Big 12), while Deuce Vaughn had 170 rushing yards for the Wildcats, who extended […]
13 hours ago
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA college footb...
Associated Press

Corum, McCarthy lead No. 4 Michigan past Iowa, 27-14

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Blake Corum rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown, J.J. McCarthy threw for 155 yards and a touchdown and No. 4 Michigan defeated Iowa 27-14 on Saturday. The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten Conference) were able to consistently move the ball against the Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1), who came into the […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Muskett leads Monmouth to 35-7 victory over Lehigh

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Tony Muskett threw three touchdown passes, Dymere Miller had 125 receiving yards and Monmouth defeated Lehigh 35-7 on Saturday. Muskett threw touchdown passes of 39 yards to Miller and 52 yards to Assanti Kearney en route to a 21-0 halftime lead. The Hawks’ advantage was 35-0 before Lehigh’s Gaige Garcia scored […]
13 hours ago
Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels runs for a short gain in the first half of an NCAA college foo...
Associated Press

Air Force finds struggling run game late, beats Navy 13-10

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Haaziq Daniels and the Air Force ground game finally got on track late to help the Falcons hold off Navy 13-10 on Saturday. The option quarterback clinched the win for the Falcons (4-1) with an 18-yard scamper on third-and-6 in Navy territory, allowing them to run out the clock. […]
13 hours ago
Streaking Bucks rebounding from slow start to season