All-Star Break Doesn’t Cool Off The Red-Hot Milwaukee Bucks

Most players — in any sport — look forward to the extended midseason respite provided by their respective league’s All-Star Game and the correlating break in the schedule that comes with it.

The Milwaukee Bucks were no different, especially after navigating a rash of injuries that sidelined key contributors for long stretches of the first half along with a challenging schedule heading into the break.

But there was probably a touch of disappointment, though, after Milwaukee finally returned to full strength and rattled off 12 consecutive victories before hitting the pause button after a 116-110 victory at Chicago on Feb. 16.

Turns out, though, that a week-long lay off did little to slow the Bucks’ roll. Milwaukee returned to action Friday night in resounding fashion, extending its winning streak to 13 games with a 128-99 rout of Miami that marked the Bucks’ largest margin of victory this season.

“The whole group had a good focus coming out of the break,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “On both ends of the court, they were pushing themselves to be their best.”

Budenholzer noted how point guard Jrue Holiday set the tone in that regard with 24 points, five rebounds and seven assists without committing a single turnover in nearly 29 minutes on the floor.

Holiday was one of six Bucks to score in double-figures against Miami, a group that included reserve guard Bobby Portis who scored 18 on 7 of 11 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in his first game back after missing more than a month due to a knee injury.

“What a credit to him and how hard he worked,” Budenholzer said. “The work he put in over the all star break, I can’t say enough about Bobby Portia. He set a tone for us. He’s a big part of our character. For him to come back from an injury and play like that is indicative of what he’s like.”

Newcomers Myers Leonard and Jae Crowder made solid contributions, too. Leonard scored five points and grabbed six boards in his first game since 2021 while Crowder, who Milwaukee acquired from Phoenix at the deadline, took the floor for the first time this season and scored nine on 3-of-5 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers and pulled down three rebounds.

“Really impressive for both of them,” Budenholzer said. “Jae, we’ve been trying to add him to our group. Credit to Jon Horst and the front office for finding a way to get him. He’s a big part of winning.”

Of course, while a hot streak in February is certainly impressive, puts butts in seats and helps with playoff positioning, there’s still a long way to go before the Bucks can go into cruise control.

First, there’s the schedule, which resumes Sunday afternoon against a new-look Phoenix Suns squad that went all-in at the trade deadline by adding Kevin Durant.

The rest of Milwaukee’s schedule includes five games against Eastern Conference contenders Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Boston as well as a trip to Phoenix for a rematch with the Suns and another to Denver for a date with the Western Conference-leading Nuggets along with a visit to Memphis, currently second in the West, in the penultimate regular season contest.

Then, there’s a matter of health, which has at times flummoxed the Bucks this season and reared its ugly head again Friday when Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was limited to just 20 seconds in the All-Star Game due to a wrist injury, left the game in the first quarter after bumping his right knee against a Suns player.

His availability Sunday against the Suns wasn’t known after the Miami game but losing the two-time Most Valuable Player who’s currently third in the league with 31.8 points and second with 12.2 rebounds per game would be an awfully big blow.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “We’ll evaluate him and just take it day by day.”

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