PREVIEW: Offensive firepower on display when Bucks visit Pelicans

Dec 18, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe (6) and center Steven Adams (12) in the second half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each scored 24 points in the Milwaukee Bucks’ victory Wednesday night, while Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson each scored 32 points in the New Orleans Pelicans’ victory on the same night.

All four standout players will be on the court when the Bucks visit the Pelicans on Friday night.

Antetokounmpo added 18 rebounds and nine assists and Middleton had 10 rebounds and seven assists in Milwaukee’s 115-108 victory against Toronto in Tampa on Wednesday.

The Bucks clamped down on their defense in the second quarter, holding the Raptors to 21 points. Toronto made 6 of 12 3-pointers in the first quarter, then just 5 of their next 16 before halftime.

Related: NBA playoff predictions – Bracket picks & Finals champion

“I think the defense in the second quarter was maybe the difference in the game,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It just felt like we were competing, everybody was together.

“They’re going to shoot a bunch of 3s, you’ve just got to make it tough on them, contest them, maybe get them off their spot, their rhythm in their 3s.”

It was the Bucks’ second straight victory after they had consecutive losses for the first time this season.

“I think we took a step in the right direction,” Middleton said.

Brook Lopez scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Related: NBA defensive rankings – Suns soar to No. 1 after first round of playoffs

“I thought some of the ball movement, some of the togetherness was one of our better games,” Budenholzer said.

This will be the first regular season game in New Orleans for Bucks guard Jrue Holiday since the Pelicans moved him as part of a four-team trade in Novemeber. Holiday scored 15 points in a preseason loss to the host Pelicans.

Holiday’s departure opened the door for Ingram and Williamson to take on bigger roles this season.

The Pelicans have struggled, as their 124-106 victory against the Washington Wizards was just New Orleans’ second in 10 games, but Ingram and Williamson both had 30-plus points in the same game for the first time in their two seasons together.

The Pelicans took a season-high 43 3-pointers and Ingram made 7 of 12.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Bucks, check out their rumors, rankings, and news here

“Every time we came down, it just felt like we were searching for the best shot on the basketball court,” Ingram said. “We had some good offense. Our defense was pretty good, too, and then defense ran into transition baskets. Everybody was aggressive and ready to play.”

New Orleans allowed its fewest points in 11 games, thanks in part to a 50-39 rebounding edge, led by Steven Adams’ 18 boards.

“We looked very sharp on defense,” Williamson said. “I think in the first quarter there was a point in my head I was thinking, ‘I think Steven has grabbed every rebound.’ It just felt like that.

“Steven has a high IQ for the game. He knows how to position himself very well. He has a lot of great techniques for boxing out and positioning himself for the rebound.”

Related: NBA games today – TV schedule, daily fantasy picks, and best bets

Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball missed the second half after injuring an ankle in the first half. Coach Stan Van Gundy said the early report on Ball’s injury was “pretty positive.”

–Field Level Media