The Milwaukee Bucks are locked in at the top.
Milwaukee clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference by taking care of the Chicago Bulls, 105-92, on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum.
The accomplishment is worth celebrating for the Bucks (58-22), but the joy was tempered a bit by several injuries the team has picked up in recent games.
Milwaukee has two more games in the regular season – vs. Memphis on Friday and at Toronto on Sunday – so the team can opt to rest key players before the playoffs.
Bobby Portis had 27 points and 13 rebounds – his second straight double-double – to lead the Bucks. Brook Lopez added 26 points, and Jrue Holiday added 20 points and 15 assists.
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“It’s definitely a great achievement,” Lopez said. “It’s cool because we’ve had a lot of different lineups throughout the year, and regardless of who we’ve put out on the floor, our guys have come out with the right mindset and have been going out there to succeed.”
Khris Middleton leaves game with knee soreness
Khris Middleton took the Bucks’ first shot of the game, a turnaround on the baseline, but looked a little hobbled while running back on defense.
Middleton stayed in the game for most of the first quarter, missing two more attempts, but checked out with 3:36 remaining. He went back into the locker room, and the Bucks announced that Middleton would not return with right knee soreness.
That is concerning for Bucks fans because Middleton has been banged up all season. He hurt his left knee in last season’s playoffs and missed the start of the season after wrist surgery. Middleton also missed 18 games with right knee soreness.
Bucks battling other injury issues as Giannis Antetokounmpo sits out
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before game that two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo would sit out the game. The Milwaukee star was listed on the injury report with right knee soreness. He played 33 minutes on Tuesday night at Washington.
Bucks guards Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen were both out with right ankle sprains.
Both guards were hurt in similar fashion by landing on opponents’ feet. Allen left Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, and Budenholzer said on Tuesday that Allen would likely be out until the first round of the playoffs.
Connaughton was hurt in the first half against the Wizards on Tuesday night, but played several minutes after the injury.
Bucks pull away in second half
Despite all the injury issues, the Bucks still went up, 20-9, in the first quarter. But the Bulls battled back in the second quarter and grabbed the lead at 42-41 when Ayo Dosunmu knocked in a mid-range jumper.
Holiday responded with a 3-pointer for Milwaukee, but Chicago went into halftime with a 51-49 advantage.
The Bucks didn’t score during the first three minutes of the second half, and Budenholzer called a timeout after the Bulls grabbed a 61-51 lead after Patrick Beverley sank a 3-pointer.
The Bucks battled back to take the lead at 63-61 when Holiday drove in for a layup. Portis added a 3-pointer on Milwaukee’s next offensive possession.
Milwaukee took a 79-76 lead into the fourth quarter, and didn’t let Chicago threaten the lead the rest of the way.
“Night in and night out in this league, it’s hard,” Budenholzer said. “To have the best record, it is something that matters and is important. But being our best day each night is what we talk about the most.
“Now we get to take a breath. I have no idea what we’re going to do Friday and Sunday. The guys have earned it. Ton of a credit to the guys for what they’ve done since the all-star break to put themselves in this position.”
Contributing: Associated Press