Even without Kawhi Leonard on the floor, the Los Angeles Clippers hung right with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at the Staples Center.
It just wasn’t quite enough.
Despite rallying from a 17-point first half hole and providing a thrilling finish in the final minute, the Clippers comeback bid came up just short. The Bucks held on late to beat the Clippers 129-124, picking up their fourth-straight win, behind a near-triple-double from Antetokounmpo — who finished with 38 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists on the night.
“I’m proud of the way the guys kind of found a way to weather a big storm, made enough plays,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said, via Fox Sports Wisconsin. “Giannis, I think he played the whole fourth quarter, and was just fabulous … But I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to win on the road.”
The Bucks led nearly the entire contest, jumping out of the gate early and pushing their lead to 17 midway through the second quarter. Yet it was a quick 15-3 run to start the third-quarter that brought the Clippers right back into the game, tying the contest just minutes after halftime.
The Clippers hung around from then on, never letting the Bucks retake control. Then, with less than 90 seconds left in the game, Clippers guard Lou Williams drilled a big 3-point bucket from the top of the key to bring them back within four.
While they tried to keep up from there — Landry Shamet hit a clutch contested 3-pointer with just 23 seconds left to make it a two-point game — the Bucks held on and won the free throw battle, drilling six from the charity stripe in the final minute to seal the five-point win.
George Hill added 24 points for the Bucks off the bench, following Antetokounmpo, behind an impressive 6-of-7 from behind the arc. Eric Bledsoe finished with 20 points, and Kyle Korver dropped 14.
Montrezl Harrell and Williams led the Clippers with 34 points each, while Patrick Beverley added 20 points and 10 rebounds of his own. Shamet was the only other Clippers player to hit double figures, ending with 14 points on the night. Leonard sat out for load management, missing the front end of their back-to-back — a decision that caused an uproar among fans since it was announced on Tuesday. He is expected to play on Thursday night in the Clippers’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Though they didn’t come up with the win, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was still extremely proud of what he saw — especially without Leonard.
“It was great. I wanted to win the game though,” Rivers said, via Fox Sports West. “The effort was great. We fought, and all that stuff. That’s what we have to do on nights when we are shorthanded … The mistakes we made probably added up to the loss, but overall I loved how we played.”
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