May 21, 2024

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks overcame a 26-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 108-102 on Sunday, the largest comeback in the NBA so far this season.

Down by 81-55 with 9:08 remaining in the third quarter, the Bucks finished the game on a 58-21 run, outscoring the Blazers by 32 points the rest of the way. Milwaukee’s star duo of Damian Lillard (17) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15) outscored 32-21 the Trail Blazers single-handedly during this span.

Antetokounmpo, who finished with 33 points, broke a tie by tipping in a basket with 18.5 seconds left in the game to put the Bucks ahead for good.

“Sometimes we just make it tough on ourselves,” Antetokounmpo, who finished with 33 points, said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Portland is a very good team — young team, play hard, but we just make it tough. We can’t start the game like that. We should not be down 26 and then try to come and win the game. That takes a toll on your body. But at the end of the day, I’m happy we were able to win.”

The Trail Blazers had a greater than 98% chance to win Sunday’s game during the third quarter, according to ESPN’s win probability analytics, before the Bucks completed one of the biggest comebacks in recent franchise history. This was Milwaukee’s second-largest comeback in the past 25 seasons, behind only a 27-point comeback against Chicago on Nov. 26, 2012.

“Just being resilient and staying with it,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “Things weren’t going our way. We’re missing bunnies, missing layups, turning the ball over, but we had a chance to watch some things at half, correct some things and then go out there in the second half and give it our all.

“Whether shots are going down, the one thing you can always rely on is effort and energy and going out there to play for each other. I think we did that in the second half.”

The Bucks picked up a comeback victory to improve to 12-5 on the season despite playing without forward Khris Middleton, who missed Sunday’s game because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. Bucks coach Adrian Griffin called Middleton day-to-day but added there was no timeline for his return.

“I think things are promising,” Griffin said prior to Sunday’s game. “We’ll see [about playing Tuesday]. We’ll just keep evaluating him everyday and see how he feels each day.”

Sunday’s game marked the first time in his career Lillard played against Portland, where he spent the first 11 years of his career. Lillard requested a trade this summer from Portland and eventually was moved to Milwaukee before the start of training camp.

Although Lillard exited after Sunday’s game without speaking to the media because of a prior commitment, he acknowledged the strangeness of the matchup with his former team during a postgame walk-off interview with Bally Sports Wisconsin.

“Once I walked in, I saw a lot of familiar faces, I thought about going in the visitors locker room for a second, but I was like, man, this a little bit different,” Lillard, who scored 31 points against his former team, said in the on-court interview. “When we got on the court, I saw everybody and it’s a weird feeling. But once we started playing, I got over it quick.”

Lillard putting up 30 on Portland made him the 15th player in NBA history to score 30 points against 30 different franchises, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Sunday also marked the second straight game both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have each scored 30 points, the second pair of Bucks teammates to do so and first since Marques Johnson and Brian Winters in 1978.

“As the season moves forward, we’re going to figure out ways to play with one another,” Antetokounmpo said. “Be more effective, be more efficient with one another, know one another’s spots. We are getting to that point. We are really getting to that point.

“At the end of the day, Dame has to be Dame. I have to be me. As the games go on, we’re going to keep on figuring ourselves out. The moment we are clicking on a higher level, it’s going to become even more scary as we move forward.”

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