MILWAUKEE (AP) - With Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the house, the Milwaukee Bucks played like NBA champions.
They shot 57 percent. They held an opponent under 100 points for the first time in 12 games. And they enjoyed a rare breather for most of the second half in a 114-88 victory Monday night over the Utah Jazz.
“It all came together tonight and that was really good to see,” coach Larry Drew said after the Bucks’ most lopsided win of the season.
Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting to lead five Bucks in double digits. Zaza Pachulia added 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the NBA’s worst team improved to 12-47.
Enes Kanter had career-high 27 points to lead Utah, mired by a mistake-prone third quarter in which the Bucks regularly led by at least 20.
“It doesn’t matter how many points I scored because it was a loss in the end,” Kanter said.
Hard as it is to believe these days, Milwaukee was once a force in the NBA with Abdul-Jabbar, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucks in 1969. Then named Lew Alcindor, the big man with the famed sky hook was joined by fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson on a team that won the NBA title in 1971.
On Monday, Abdul-Jabbar was in town to promote a tourism ad for the state of Wisconsin that played off his acting role in the movie “Airplane.” He watched a game that turned into a laugher in the second half.
Everything went right for the Bucks. Pachulia hit a layup in transition for an 11-point lead before guard Nate Wolters got the break going again after a Utah miss with 11:07 left in the third quarter. After a Jazz miss, Wolters rushed the ball into the lane to draw defenders before pitching back to Pachulia for an open 15-footer.
“Everything started defensively. We got stops. We got rebounds and fast breaks, then Nate did a good job with the penetration,” Pachulia said.
Later, Ilyasova found himself open from 22 feet for another jumper and an 85-60 lead with 3:08 left in the third quarter. There have been nights this season when the Bucks have struggled to get to 85 for a game.
But on Monday, Drew’s club pulled away after allowing an early 12-point lead to get erased in the second quarter.
“It was really refreshing that our guys came out to start the third quarter with some energy and some juice,” Drew said. “I thought the third quarter we were just really good. Ersan was just unbelievable.”
Ilyasova had 15 points in the third. Whether hitting wide-open shots from the perimeter or getting off-balance putbacks, he could rarely be stopped.
In the fourth, precocious rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo entertained the crowd by converting a touch pass from O.J. Mayo into a dunk and a three-point play for a 108-79 lead with 6:07 left.
It was a deflating outing for the Jazz, one night after they lost to the NBA-leading Pacers 94-91 in Indiana. They’re 0-3 on the first three stops of their six-game road trip.
“It’s frustrating after the performance last night, the growth we showed last night. We just didn’t get it back tonight,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Gordon Hayward provided some of Utah’s limited highlights, finishing with 20 points. Kanter came off the bench to shoot 8 of 16 and 11 of 12 from the foul line, with 14 rebounds.
Otherwise, the Jazz were overrun in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee has won two of its last four, with both wins coming by at least 20 points. Still, even with Abdul-Jabbar in town for a publicized appearance, the rebuilding Bucks drew a season-low 10,222 fans.
NOTES: Count Corbin as captain of the campaign to get Utah point guard Trey Burke in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award. “Oh absolutely, absolutely. You look at his growth all year. … You look at how this team has grown because of his play, should be factored in also,” Corbin said. Burke is averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 assists. He finished with seven points and five assists in 30 minutes Monday. … Bucks F Jeff Adrien, acquired at the trade deadline from Charlotte, has at least 10 rebounds in four of five games with his new team.
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