Furious Bucks rally falls short in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Lonzo Ball highlighted a season-best 27-point performance with seven 3-pointers and the New Orleans Pelicans held off a furious Milwaukee rally to beat the Bucks 131-126 on Friday night.

Brandon Ingram scored 28 points, and Zion Williamson had 21 points, nine rebounds and a career-best seven assists to help New Orleans prevent the Bucks from erasing a 28-point deficit during the game’s final 17 minutes.

Eric Bledsoe also hit seven 3s and scored 25 for the Pelicans, who combined to make 21 from deep. Steven Adams grabbed a season-high 20 rebounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and 11 rebounds, and former Pelican Jrue Holiday scored 22 for Milwaukee, which trailed nearly the entire game, usually by double-digits.

The Pelicans appeared firmly in control when Ball’s jumper made it 93-65 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

But Khris Middleton’s turnaround jumper began a head-spinning 20-3 run during the next 3:08. Antetokounmpo hit a 3 during the surge and capped it with a spinning dribble for a layup while he was fouled.

Milwaukee’s deficit was back down to single digits when Pat Connaughton’s layup made it 98-89, but the Pelicans scored the last five points of the quarter, including Nicolo Melli’s 3 as the period ended, to stem the tide.

After that, the Pelicans maintained a lead close to 10 points until less than two minutes remained.

The Pelicans, who came in having won just two of their last 10 games, put together one of their best first halves of the season.

They shot 57.1% in the first 24 minutes, including 12 of 21 from 3-point range. And they led by as many as 29 when Nickeil Alexander-Walker made a layup over Brook Lopez and high off the glass, then intercepted Antetokounmpo’s pass and drove straight back to the hoop for a dunk to make it 47-28.

Bledsoe, who came to New Orleans from Milwaukee as part of the multiple-team Holiday trade, hit five of his first six 3-point shots and had 17 points before halftime.

Pelicans reserve guard Josh Hart made all four of his shots in the second quarter, three from deep.

The Bucks, by contrast, struggled even to make open shots, hitting 37%, and turned the ball over eight times in the first two quarters.

Middleton missed his first five shots before finally hitting a mid-range jumper with 1:24 left in the second quarter. Soon after, Middleton converted a steal from Nicolo Melli into a breakaway layup, trimming New Orleans lead to 68-45 at halftime.