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Reeling coming off a loss and with one of their best players sidelined, the Milwaukee Bucks delivered just the sort of performance they needed.
The defending NBA champions raced out to a big lead, making quick work of the Chicago Bulls.
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Grayson Allen made five 3-pointers and scored 22 points and Milwaukee dominated Chicago 111-81 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series without the injured Khris Middleton.
Giannis Antetokounmpo added 18 points. Bobby Portis started with Middleton out and finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds despite pain in his right eye from a hit in Game 2. And the Bucks made it look easy, handing the Bulls the most lopsided home playoff loss in franchise history.
Coming off two shaky performances in Milwaukee, the Bucks quieted a raucous crowd watching Chicago’s first playoff game at the United Center in five years. They led by 24 in the second quarter and remained in control the rest of the way.
Middleton is expected to miss the rest of the series after spraining his left knee in Wednesday night in a loss. Game 4 is Sunday in Chicago. Without him, Allen said his own mindset didn’t necessarily change, though the rhythm was different.
“Maybe was a little bit quicker to shoot some of those catch-and-shoot shots I got,” said Allen, who hit three straight three 3-pointers soon after entering the game in the first quarter. “But I think it was just being in different spots. Some of those spots that Khris is usually in on offense — top of the key, playing off of post-ups, isolations. I was there and got the ball swung, and they collapsed hard on Giannis and Jrue (Holiday) all game long. I was able to take advantage of that.”
Antetokounmpo scored all but two of his points after the first quarter. The two-time MVP finished with nine assists and seven rebounds.
Holiday added 16 points to help the Bucks beat the Bulls for the 18th time in 20 games.
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Nikola Vucevic led Chicago with 19 points. Zach LaVine had 15 and DeMar DeRozan finished with just 11 with the Bucks crowding him after setting a career playoff high with 41 in Game 2.
“We didn’t have that same competitiveness that we had the first two games we had in Milwaukee,” LaVine said. “We took a punch the first game. When we went down 0-9, we responded right away. We didn’t didn’t respond the right way (on Friday). We need to look at the film and figure out how we can do a better job of matching force with force.”
Milwaukee had it going right from the start, racing out to a 60-41 halftime lead even with Middleton sidelined.
Allen helped squash the “Let’s go Bulls!” chants, nailing four 3s and scoring 14 in the half. That had to make it even tougher for fans still upset about his hard foul that resulted in a broken wrist for Alex Caruso during a game in Milwaukee in January. They showered him with boos but couldn’t throw him off his game.
Antetokounmpo started a 13-0 run early in the second quarter with a 19-footer and dunk. And Allen finished it with a driving layup that bumped the lead to 46-22.
Bucks: Milwaukee’s biggest playoff win was by 50 at home against San Francisco in 1971. And the Bucks’ widest margin on the road was by 36 at Philadelphia in 1970. … Portis wore goggles after missing most of Game 2 with a right eye abrasion. He took a hit to the face from Chicago’s Tristan Thompson late in the first quarter Wednesday as both players were going after a rebound. … G George Hill (abdominal strain) missed his fourth game in a row. And coach Mike Budenholzer said he doesn’t appear close to returning. … Milwaukee has won 12 of 13 at the United Center dating to the 2016-17 season
Bulls: Chicago’s most lopsided playoff loss was 115-78 at Miami in Game 2 of the 2013 conference semis. … The Bulls have not won a home playoff game since beating Cleveland in Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals. Chicago lost that series in six games. … Assistant coaches Chris Fleming and Damian Cotter were back with the team after missing the first two games because of COVID-19. Assistant Maurice Cheeks, however, was out because of a non-COVID illness, coach Billy Donovan said.