Brook Lopez Matches Career High With 39 Points As Bucks Edge Wizards 131-128

Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard drives to the basket against Washington Wizards' Daniel Gafford (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball In-Season Tournament game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard drives to the basket against Washington Wizards' Daniel Gafford (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball In-Season Tournament game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brook Lopez matched a career high with 39 points and hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 left to put the Milwaukee Bucks ahead for good in a 131-128 In-Season Tournament victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Milwaukee's Khris Middleton exited the game early in the third quarter with left Achilles tendon tightness. Middleton, who has been playing limited minutes this season after undergoing surgery on his right knee over the summer, had seven points and five assists in 13 minutes.

Bucks officials said after the game that Middleton didn't need to undergo any imaging on the Achilles tendon.

“Just took him out for precautionary measures,” Bucks coach Adrian Griffin said. “We're evaluating him tomorrow.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard each added 31 points as the Bucks improved to 3-0 in the East Group B standings. This was the first time in franchise history that the Bucks had three players score at least 30 points in the same game.

“I’m lucky to play with great players on this team, from Giannis and Dame all the way down — talented guys who can put the ball in the bucket but are also great playmakers," said Lopez, who shot 14 of 17 overall and 4 of 7 from 3-point range. “Dame had some great passes to me tonight, Giannis did as well, all the way down the line again. That's just the way it went tonight.”

Antetokounmpo had been downgraded from probable to questionable in Friday afternoon's injury report due to a non-COVID illness, but he still played 37 minutes and had nine rebounds to go with his 31 points. Lillard had 10 assists and seven rebounds.

The Bucks close group play Tuesday at Miami, which fell to 2-1 in group play Friday with a 100-98 loss to the New York Knicks.

Jordan Poole scored 26, Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones each had 22 and Corey Kispert added 20 for the Wizards, who have lost eight straight. The Wizards are 0-4 in group play.

Kuzma fired a potential tying 3-pointer from midcourt that bounced off the back rim at the buzzer.

“I thought we played with a level of poise from start to finish,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I liked our energy and effort throughout the game. It didn't seem to wane. Every time they kind of made a push, we pushed back. That was great to see. It's a good team. The fact you can go toe to toe against a really good team, have an opportunity to win the game, it's a positive.”

In a game that featured 22 ties and 19 lead changes, Lopez broke a 116-all tie by sinking a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the Bucks ahead for good. The Bucks extended the lead to 125-118 — the biggest margin for either team — when Lillard hit one of two free throws with 1:16 left.

Kuzma sank a corner 3-pointer to cut the lead to 127-126 with 16.9 seconds left.

Antetokounmpo made two free throws to extend the lead, then Landry Shamet missed an open corner 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 12 seconds left. After Pat Connaughton missed two free throws, Kuzma sank a driving layup to cut the lead to one with 4.2 seconds remaining.

The only other time Lopez has scored 39 points came while playing for the New Jersey Nets against the Detroit Pistons on April 6, 2011. His two highest-scoring performances of the season have come in his last two games, as the 7-footer had 28 points Wednesday in a 119-106 loss at Boston.

UP NEXT

Wizards: Host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

Bucks: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday in Lillard's first game against his former team.

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