Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks dominate Denver Nuggets in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE — With a garbage-time three, the Nuggets extended an impressive streak. But there was nothing impressive about their performance Monday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated with 36 points and 18 rebounds on 14 of 19 shooting, and the Bucks demolished the Nuggets, 112-95 on Monday night at Fiserv Forum. Denver narrowly avoided consecutive 20-point losses for the first time of the Nikola Jokic and Michael Malone era after trailing by 28 in the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets (36-18) have one more game before the All-Star break, a home rematch with the Kings after a 135-106 rout in Sacramento last Friday. The Nuggets have lost two games in a row by 20 or more points for the first time in the Jokic and Malone era.

Jokic amassed 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists on 25 shots. But he turned it over five times, part of an uncharacteristic stretch of sloppy Nuggets basketball dating back to their 20-turnover game in Sacramento.

Aaron Gordon added 14 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks, but the other three Nuggets starters combined for 15 points on 19 shot attempts before they started dropping like flies. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Friday’s game due to right hamstring tightness, exited in the second quarter for the same reason and didn’t return, replaced by Justin Holiday. Then Reggie Jackson started the second half at point guard as Jamal Murray sat the rest of the night with bilateral tibia inflammation.

More collectively banged up than at any point this season so far, the Nuggets will get seven days off for the break after hosting the Kings.

This game appeared early to be following a similar template to the matchup between these teams in Denver two weeks earlier: an early double-digit lead for the Bucks, erased by the end of the first quarter by the surging Nuggets. Turns out, the only problem for Milwaukee was Antetokounmpo’s absence. He picked up two quick fouls and had to go to the bench six minutes into the game. Denver had fallen behind 13-2, then it answered with a 16-3 run for the lead. Damian Lillard also got his second foul, and Bucks coach Doc Rivers wasted his challenge on a lost cause.

Milwaukee Bucks' Bobby Portis shoots past Denver Nuggets' Christian Braun during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Milwaukee Bucks’ Bobby Portis shoots past Denver Nuggets’ Christian Braun during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Nuggets seemed positioned to attack the 2021 champions with physicality. Instead, they looked sluggish.

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