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Confident Kings await visit from East-leading Bucks

Mar 6, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings power forward Domantas Sabonis (10) questions the no-call from the referee during the first quarter anop at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the NBA’s top teams clash on Monday when the Sacramento Kings host the Milwaukee Bucks, who are on the second leg of a three-game West Coast road swing.

The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks went into their trip winners in 19 of their last 20 games. However, with former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, it was another two-time MVP that was the difference. Golden State’s Steph Curry erupted late and scored 36 points as Milwaukee lost 125-116 in overtime.

The defeat was the Bucks’ third since Jan. 16. They head into Sacramento for Monday’s game having last dropped back-to-back contests on Jan. 12 and 14.

Milwaukee rallied from down 13 points in the second half to get to overtime at Golden State, thanks in part to 15 points and 13 rebounds from Bobby Portis in his 33rd double-double of the season. Khris Middleton added 19 points, five assists and four steals.

Middleton played 34 minutes while shooting 3 of 4 from 3-point range, but after missing 43 games due to injuries, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has remained cautious with the three-time All-Star’s usage.

“We’re trying to be very diligent in how we bring back Khris and keep him healthy. He wasn’t going to play all five minutes of overtime,” Budenholzer said. “Overall, I think his body’s in a good place. We’re trying to take the long road with him.”

As for Antetokounmpo, who is one of the league’s top scorers at 31.2 points per game and second in rebounds at 11.9, he might be ready to return Monday from right hand soreness after a three-game absence.

The Kings come into Monday’s matchup winners in eight of their last nine games, including two straight against playoff-eligible teams. Sacramento beat the New York Knicks 122-117 on Thursday behind a triple-double of 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists from Domantas Sabonis.

Thursday’s triple-double was the ninth of the season for Sabonis, the NBA’s leader in rebounding at 12.3 per game. It was his third triple-double since the All-Star break.

Sabonis followed up by scoring 17 points with eight rebounds on Saturday. He was one of four Kings players to score at least 17 as Sacramento outpaced the Phoenix Suns 128-119.

Harrison Barnes scored 19 points in Sacramento’s road win, while De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk each added 18.

“Winning helps a lot. This team is probably the closest team since I’ve been here, since I’ve been in the NBA, really,” the Kings’ Chimezie Metu said.

Metu scored nine points and made three steals off the bench.

“Nights like this when we win big games, everybody feels great,” Metu added. “A lot of people were able to contribute tonight.”

Sacramento has surged into a tie with Memphis for the Western Conference’s second-best record and reached 40 wins for the first time since 2006.

Monday’s meeting is the first between the red-hot teams since a 126-113 Bucks win at Milwaukee on Dec. 7.

Antetokounmpo scored 35 points in that matchup, while Jrue Holiday added 31. Holiday has scored 30-plus points six times on the season; four of those have been since the calendar turned to 2023.

-Field Level Media

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