The Kings didn’t look like a team that had just endured their worst loss of the season as they set out into the cold Milwaukee night to board a flight back to Sacramento after 10 days away from home.
Maybe this is the new reality for a young team trying to find its way in the changing NBA. You win some by 30. You lose some by 30.
Giannis Antetokounmpo posted his second triple-double of the season to lead the red-hot Milwaukee Bucks to a 144-109 victory over Sacramento on Sunday afternoon at Fiserv Forum. The loss came three days after a 146-115 victory over the Atlanta Hawks and snapped the Kings’ five-game winning streak, but it didn’t break their spirit after they finished a four-game trip with a 3-1 record.
“Obviously, it hurts a little bit to lose like that, but I think we’re still extremely happy with how we played on this road trip,” said small forward Justin Jackson, who scored a career-high 22 points. “I think we go back with our heads high and extremely happy with how we’ve been playing.”
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The matinee affair was the day’s marquee matchup in the NBA, pitting two of the league’s hottest teams against each other. The Bucks came in having won seven of their first eight games. The Kings had won six of their last seven.
The Kings (6-4) led briefly in the first quarter, but it wasn’t long before the Bucks (8-1) took control. Milwaukee shot 48.4 percent from the field and made a franchise-record 22 3-pointers.
Both teams rank among the NBA leaders in scoring and pace, but the Bucks have also been one of the league’s best defensive teams. They limited Sacramento’s transition game, forced the Kings to settle for too many long jumpers and held them to a season low in scoring, nearly 11 points below their average of 119.8 points per game.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer knew that would be a big key.
“When you watch Sacramento fly up and down the court, you just realize how important transition (defense) is going to be against them,” Budenholzer said.
Kings coach Dave Joerger said his team strayed from what worked in wins over Memphis, Washington, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta.
“I just thought we got discombobulated,” Joerger said. “I thought we tried to make too many plays on our own. If we can become more decisive and not have to pound it so many times, we can zip it, we can drive it, kick it and create a shot for somebody else.
“As a young team, we got frustrated and tried to make plays on our own, (but) I’m really proud of our crew. I like our guys. We had a terrific road trip to win three out of four on a 10-day trip. I’m very proud. Tonight, we just didn’t get it done.”
Antetokounmpo certainly did. He finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.
“He’s stepping into rarefied air,” Bucks center John Henson said. “He’s becoming one of the best players in the world. I’m privileged to be a part of it. I’ve seen him grow from young Giannis to superstar Giannis.”
The Kings have played seven of their first 10 games on the road. They will return to Sacramento to open a four-game home stand against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
“It’s been fun,” guard Buddy Hield said. “We wanted to get this one bad, but we got three out of four, so we’re just going to go home and get ready for Toronto and see if we can get another one.”