Domantas Sabonis and Giannis Antetokounmpo rekindle an old rivalry when the Sacramento Kings tip off a six-game trip with a visit to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Both teams are staring at a healthy amount of road games ahead as they duel for the first of two games against each other this season. They will meet in a rematch at Sacramento in March.
In a promising start to the season, the Kings have held their own away from home, going 5-5 while winning three of their last five. They earned a split on their longest previous trip, winning at Charlotte and Orlando on a four-game trek that included losses to the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors.
Meanwhile, the Bucks won at Charlotte on Saturday and Orlando on Monday as they began a stretch of 10 of the next 13 on the road. Milwaukee’s one-game stopover at home to face the Kings is one of three one-game visits home in that 26-day stretch.
Sabonis and Antetokounmpo were twice selected as Eastern Conference All-Stars in the same year before the Bucks’ Central Division rival, the Indiana Pacers, dealt their star big man to the Kings last February.
Sabonis has gone head-to-head with the two-time MVP Antetokounmpo 17 times since 2017 without much success. The Bucks have won 12 of those games, including one against the Oklahoma City Thunder, with whom Sabonis began his career, and one last March against the Kings.
Sabonis has averaged 14.2 points and 9.0 rebounds in those games, recording two double-doubles, while Antetokounmpo has gone for 24.9 points and 12.2 rebounds, notching five double-doubles.
Antetokounmpo had a game-high 36 points and 10 rebounds when the Bucks won 135-126 at Sacramento last season. Sabonis countered with 22 points and seven assists.
After sitting out Milwaukee’s win at Charlotte on Saturday with a sore left knee, Antetokounmpo returned to top 30 points for his seventh straight game in a 34-point effort at Orlando. He completed a double-double with 13 rebounds.
“I’m shooting it better,” Antetokounmpo said of the seven-game stretch during which he’s made 60.4 percent of his shots. “Hopefully I can keep this up. And I believe I’m going to keep this up.”
The Bucks have won five of six overall, with the lone loss coming at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
The Kings have won three in a row after having dropped three straight. They’ve been streaky. They opened the season with a four-game skid but put together seven wins in a row last month.
At 13-9, it has added up to the franchise’s best start since 2005.
“It sounds like a broken record, but (the players) have worked hard. They’re connected. They’re trying to play for each other,” first-year Kings coach Mike Brown said. “And when you get that with a talented group and two All-Stars in (De’Aaron) Fox and Domas, and a lot of guys who can step up, including Sixth Man of the Year (candidate) Malik Monk, you get some nice wins.”
That depth of talent was on display in Sunday’s 110-101 home win over the Chicago Bulls. Sabonis notched his first triple-double of the season with 11 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and got plenty of help from Monk (20 points), Fox (16 points and seven rebounds) and Harrison Barnes (17 points). Kevin Huerter (12 points), Keegan Murray (11) and Chimezie Metu (10) also scored in double figures.
–Field Level Media