The Portland Trail Blazers (2-1) are no longer undefeated to start the season, but it took an MVP-caliber effort to do it.
Portland fell 113-110 to the Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) Saturday night behind Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career-high 44 points on 17-of-23 shooting from the field to go with eight rebounds and three assists. The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s 26 points apiece in the team’s fourth consecutive defeat at Milwaukee.
A break-neck-paced first quarter saw the Blazers up 26-24 at the first intermission, led by Lillard’s seven points in the period. Though Portland would find itself up by nine in the opening minutes of the second, an 18-7 Bucks run saw the home team reverse its fortunes to go into halftime up 60-55 thanks to Antetokounmpo’s 21 first-half points.
Portland battled back to stay neck-and-neck with Milwaukee for much of the third quarter, sparked by Jusuf Nurkić’s block on an Antetokounmpo dunk attempt. Following Lillard’s fourth foul midway through the third, the Bucks pulled ahead to a four-point advantage heading into the final period.
For a brief moment, it appeared to be ‘Lillard Time’ in Milwaukee. Lillard scored 16 points in crunch time, his three-pointer with just under a minute to go finally giving the Portland the lead on the road at 110-109. It was, however, Antetokounmpo’s night. With the Blazers still holding the 110-109 advantage and looking for insurance, ‘The Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo picked Lillard’s pocket and received the feed from Malcolm Brogdon to throw down the go-ahead dunk with 12 seconds left, sending the 16,211 fans at the BMO Harris Bradley Center into a frenzy. Antetokounmpo then came up big in the final seconds, getting a clean block on Nurkić’s game-winner attempt from the block.
Joining Lillard and McCollum near the top of the scoring column, Nurkić scored 17 points to go with 11 rebounds. Moe Harkless put in 13 points, while Evan Turner pitched in 11 points and seven assists off the bench.
Aside from Antetokounmpo’s career night, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell scored 17 and 18 points, respectively. 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon added 13 points in the Bucks win.
The Trail Blazers now return home to for their Moda Center debut Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Milwaukee hosts the Charlotte Hornets on Monday evening.