LOS ANGELES — Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton scored a season-high 34 points Monday as the Bucks improved their NBA-best record with a 126-117 victory over the Detroit Pistons despite the absence of superstar Giannis Antetokounpo.
Antetokounmpo, out with a sore knee, was just one of the Bucks high-profile absentees, with Jrue Holiday away for personal reasons and Jae Crowder sidelined by a calf injury.
But Middleton, who was drafted by the Pistons in 2012, made sure the Eastern Conference leaders came away with another win, as the Bucks pulled away with a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter — when Milwaukee guard Jevon Carter made three of his six three-pointers.
“With Jrue out, Giannis being out, I had to be aggressive,” said Middleton, who also pulled down eight rebounds. “I had to get to my spots and when I got there I’ve either got to shoot or find the open man.”
Rookie Jaden Ivey scored a career-high 32 points for Detroit, but the Pistons lost their sixth straight.
There was good news for the slumping Dallas Mavericks, who snapped a four-game skid with a 127-104 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Luka Doncic led the Mavs with 25 points — starting the game after the NBA rescinded the technical foul he was assessed in a loss at Charlotte on Sunday, which would have been his 16th of the season and triggered an automatic one-game suspension.
Doncic made the most of the reprieve, adding seven rebounds and six assists — one of them an impressive side-armed pass across the court to rookie Jaden Hardy for a three-pointer when Doncic himself couldn’t get a shot off in the face of a fierce double team.
“I didn’t think he saw me at first,” Hardy said. “Then, when saw me I didn’t think he was going to be able to get it to me. But he did … so I was like, I’ve got to knock this down for him.”
Mavs coach Jason Kidd wasn’t surprised.
“He’s one of the best passers in the league,” Kidd said. “He can find guys — he’s strong enough, I don’t know if anybody else can make that pass.”
Kyrie Irving added 16 points and six assists for the Mavericks, who are half a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the hunt for the final two Western Conference play-in tournament berths.
Irving, still battling nagging pain in his right foot, connected on seven of 11 shots. He had three rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
In New York, Immanuel Quickley scored 40 points to help the Knicks rout the Houston Rockets 137-115. Julius Randle added 26 points for New York, who are holding down fifth place in the East.
© Agence France-Presse