Defense took the night off, but winning didn’t.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 43 points on 17-of-21 shooting, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 148-129 victory over the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum.
Anyone who might have worried about a letdown after the Bucks won the last four of their five-game road trip had such worried alleviated when the Bucks scored a team-record 50 points in the first quarter for a 50-35 lead.
The Bucks led by as many as 25 in the second quarter and after the Wizards stuck around and pulled within 120-113 early in the fourth quarter, Eric Bledsoe scored 10 points and dished out three assists in a 21-5 run that made it 141-118 and effectively settled the matter.
Bledsoe finished with 22 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, Malcolm Brogdon added 18 and Khris Middleton chipped in 16 as the Bucks put six players in double figures.
With their fifth straight victory and 11th in 12 games, the Bucks improved the NBA’s best record to 40-13. They lead the Toronto Raptors by two games — three in the loss column — for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova each scored eight points in the first quarter, as the Bucks set a franchise record with 50 points. Brogdon’s 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left made it 50-35 and brought the sellout crowd of 17,360 to its feet.
The Bucks kept scoring in the second period but fell a point short of the franchise record for points in a half, settling for an 85-65 lead. The record of 86 was set on Dec. 27, 1968 against the same team, then known as the Baltimore Bullets.
Antetokounmpo scored 11 more in the second quarter and 16 in the third quarter. Every one of those points was needed, too, as the Wizards scored 42 in the third quarter and crept within 120-107 after three.
Chasson Randle’s driving layup capped a 6-0 run to open the fourth period, pulling the Wizards within seven points and making things a lot more uncomfortable than they should have been.
But Bledsoe took over from there. Antetokounmpo made the first of two free throws to snap the Washington run, then Bledsoe assisted on Tony Snell’s dunk down the lane and Ilyasova’s layup. Bledsoe then drove for a layup, forced a turnover and canned a 3-pointer to make it 130-113.
He saved his best for a few seconds later. After Antetokounmpo made the first of two free throws, Bledsoe came charging in from outside the arc on the second free throw. When it rolled off the front rim, Bledsoe was there to jam it back home for a 133-113 lead. He dropped in another 3-pointer a minute later to keep the lead at 20, and the Wizards never threatened again.
Bradley Beal scored 30 points, Thomas Bryant added 26 and Jeff Green 22 for the Wizards, who fell to 22-32.