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Bucks vs Nuggets Final Score: Milwaukee rides strong second-half defense to win 89-81

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Leading scorer with 15 points? Under 43 percent shooting as a team? 16 turnovers and 21 personal fouls?

That's the recipe for a win.

The Milwaukee Bucks clamped down on defense in the second half and held the Denver Nuggets below 36 percent shooting as a team en route to an 89-81 victory Friday night in Milwaukee. Both teams were playing with dilapidated lineups in the wake of Thursday's wild trade deadline,  but the Bucks were able to scrape out just enough offense knock off the Nuggets. Six players scored in double-figures for the Bucks, including all five starters, and five players took between 10 and 13 shots. Khris Middleton led the way with 15 points on 4-10 shooting (2-4 3PT, 5-5 FT).

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a rough shooting night in his first game back from the All-Star break, shooting just 3-13 for 10 points, though he did grab a team-high 9 rebounds. With the newly acquired Michael Carter-Williams still nursing a toe injury, Jerryd Bayless started at point guard and flirted with a triple-double, notching 11 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Newcomer Tyler Ennis had an up-and-down debut, turning it over three times while scoring four points and dishing out two assists in 18 minutes. Meanwhile, Miles Plumlee suited up but didn't play hours after passing his team physical.

The Nuggets held a tenuous lead through much of the first half, but Milwaukee kept things close with a feisty defense that really went to work in the second half. Denver scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter and scored their last meaningful basket with 3:43 left in the game, a short jumper by Darrell Arthur that cut the Bucks' lead to four. But the Bucks built the lead back up on their next two possessions, and a Giannis-assisted three-pointer by Middleton with 1:23 left gave Milwaukee a ten-point lead that allowed them to close things out comfortably.

Wilson Chandler led the way for Denver with 19 points but shot 8-20 from the floor. The Nuggets were without Ty Lawson, who was suspended by the team for internal violations. Rookie Jusuf Nurkic had 11 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, though John Henson held his own with 14 points (6/8 fg) and four blocks in just 18 minutes.