NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday frustrated former teammate Zion Williamson like few NBA guards can and drained a momentum-changing, late-game shot for good measure.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 42 points and 10 rebounds, Holiday capped his 18-point, 11-assist performance by hitting a 3 with 1:17 to go, and the Milwaukee Bucks held off a late New Orleans surge to beat the Pelicans 128-119 on Monday night.
“There’s something about being in this gym,” Holiday said of his decisive 3, which Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer called “probably the biggest shot of the game.”
“I’m guessing I’ve done it quite a bit here,” Holiday continued. “So, just coming off that screen and letting it fly.”
Brook Lopez mixed in four 3-pointers with opportunistic play in the paint to score 30 points for the Bucks, who led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter before the Pelicans went on a 22-7 run and pulled to 117-114 on CJ McCollum’s fadeaway.
Shortly after Holiday made his big shot, he set up Lopez’s cutting layup to virtually ensure New Orleans’ fourth straight loss on the heels of its seven-game winning streak.
“The moment we decided to pick it up the fourth quarter, we’re right back in the game,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “I didn’t think we sustained it for 48 minutes.”
Milwaukee, which has won 10 of 13, maintained a double-digit lead for long stretches while frustrating Williamson for much of the game.
Guarded primarily by Holiday, with Lopez and Antetokounmpo rotating in behind to protect the rim, Williamson was limited to nine points through the first three quarters. He scored nine in the final 12 minutes to finish with 18 points.
“We know he such a big part of their offense that if he’s not scoring, we have a good chance,” Holiday said. “I feel like we kind of frustrated him.”
Williamson’s annoyance was evident when he was assessed a technical foul while speaking angrily to official John Conley in the third quarter.
“Jrue, in a kind of subtle, understated way is very, very strong and I think he loved the challenge, beating him to a spot, having the strength to kind of take a hit, pressuring him a little bit,” Budenholzer said. “There’s probably only a handful of guards, if even that many, like Jrue that could maybe pick him up higher, pick him up earlier, do some different things to him.”
Jonas Valanciunas scored a season-high 37 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for New Orleans, but he hit just one of his career high-tying seven 3-pointers in the second half.
McCollum scored 31 for New Orleans, which lost at home for the first time in eight games.
“We’ll be fine,” Green said. “We have to be able to accept some of the bad with the good. … We have to climb our way out of it.”
With multiple Bucks defenders trying to wall off Williamson from the basket early, the ball tended to find Valanciunas open on the perimeter. The Lithuanian big man hit 6 of 8 3-point attempts and scored 28 points in the first half.
Antetokounmpo, returning from left knee soreness, scored 26 in the first half on shots ranging from a 3, to a Eurostep layup amid a crowd of defenders, to a soaring alley-oop dunk.
Bucks: Pat Connaughton scored 11 points. … Outscored New Orleans in the paint 54-42. … Antetokounmpo made 17 of 22 free throws. … Shot 55.6% (45 of 81) overall, including 13 of 40 from deep.
Pelicans: F Brandon Ingram (left great toe contusion) missed his 11th straight game. … F Larry Nance Jr. sat out with a sore right Achilles. … Hit 18 of 45 3s and shot 42.2% (42 of 99) overall.
INGLES CHECKS IN
Joe Ingles made his Bucks debut in a reserve role after a nearly 11-month recovery from knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Playing for the first time since Jan. 30, when he was with Utah, Ingles saw 15 minutes of action but missed all four of his shots — all from 3-point range — and did not score.
Bucks: At Cleveland on Wednesday.
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Thursday.
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