Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted "a win is a win" after the Milwaukee Bucks escaped with an 86-83 victory against the Brooklyn Nets, despite blowing a big advantage in Game 3.

The Bucks had their backs against the wall after falling into a 2-0 hole against the second-seeded Nets in the Eastern Conference semi-finals but responded on home court in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee surrendered a 21-point lead at home to the Nets before Jrue Holiday put the Bucks ahead for good with 11.4 seconds remaining on Thursday.

The Bucks were forced to dig deep during the closing stages, however two-time MVP Antetokounmpo did not dwell on the manner of the win as Milwaukee cut Brooklyn's lead to 2-1 in the NBA playoffs.

"At the end of the day, a win is a win," said Antetokounmpo, who posted 33 points and 14 rebounds.

"It doesn't matter if you win by 30. It doesn't matter if you win by one.

"You can go back home and celebrate the ‘W.' "

Khris Middleton top-scored with 35 points and 15 rebounds as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beating three-point attempt for the Nets bounced off the rim.

The Bucks are the only NBA team in the last 15 years to have two players (Antetokounmpo and Middleton) score 15-plus points in a quarter with no other team-mates posting a point (regular season or postseason), according to Stats Perform.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton combined for 68 points and 29 rebounds. Per Stats Perform, they are the first duo to combine for those numbers in a playoff game since Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2001.

"We ran a lot of pick-and-roll, the first two games, in Brooklyn. I was able to get my spots, just wasn't making the shot, making the right pass or the right read," Middleton said.

"Tonight, I just tried to make the right read and make those shots. I can see what they are giving, just trying to take advantage of that."

On Milwaukee's defense, Holiday added: "I think part of it is playing desperate, knowing the situation, knowing what this game means to us and what it means to be home.

"And then the other part of it is the performance we had the first two games, showing that's not the type of defense we play. That was really out of character."

The Los Angeles Lakers issued a reminder of their quality as the reigning NBA champions outclassed the Phoenix Suns 109-95 to seize control in the Western Conference first-round series.

Injuries crippled the Lakers for most of the season as they slipped down to the play-in tournament and the seventh seed, but Anthony Davis and LeBron James starred at Staples Center on Thursday.

Davis posted a dominant double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds and James put up 21 points as the Lakers claimed a 2-1 series lead following back-to-back victories against the second seeds in the playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, are poised to sweep the Miami Heat after easing to a 113-84 win.

Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo posted 17 points and 17 rebounds to go with five assists, while Khris Middleton (team-high 22 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points and 12 assists) contributed en route to a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The Bucks – who are eyeing their first championship since 1971 – can seal a sweep on Saturday.

 

Jokic inspires Nuggets

MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic was at his brilliant best as the Denver Nuggets outlasted the Portland Trail Blazers 120-115 on the road. Jokic scored 36 points and collected 10 rebounds to guide the third-seeded Nuggets to a 2-1 series lead in the west. Damian Lillard's 37 points and Jusuf Nurkic's 13-point, 13-rebound double-double were not enough for the Trail Blazers.

Milwaukee's Holiday produced another impressive display against the Heat following his 15-assist performance in Game 2 as he became the first Bucks player with back-to-back 10-plus assist games in the playoffs since Sam Cassell in 2001. The 2013 All-Star was plus-37 in Game 2 and plus-42 in Game 3. According to Stats Perform, Holiday became the first NBA player to have a plus-minus of plus-37 or better in back-to-back games since Kobe Bryant in 2003.

 

Miami's shooting woes

The less said about the Heat's shooting on Thursday, the better. As a team, Miami were just 37.6 per cent from the field – making 32 of their 85 shots. From three-point range, the Heat were only 28.1 per cent (nine of 32). Goran Dragic (eight points) finished three-for-14 shooting in 29 minutes, while Duncan Robinson (two points) was one of six from the field, having missed all four three-pointers.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker were not at their usual high standards for the Suns. Paul, who hurt his shoulder in Game 2, was three-for-eight shooting for just seven points. All-Star team-mate Booker had 19 points, but it was on six-for-19 shooting from the field in 41 minutes. He only made one of four attempts from beyond the arc.

 

Rivers lights up fourth quarter

Denver's Austin Rivers was in red-hot form in the final period against the Blazers. Rivers scored 16 of his 21 points in the fourth to help the Nuggets to victory.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 109-95 Phoenix Suns
Milwaukee Bucks 113-84 Miami Heat
Denver Nuggets 120-115 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Nets at Celtics

The star-studded Brooklyn Nets visit the Boston Celtics on Friday, leading the Eastern Conference first-round series 2-0.

The Milwaukee Bucks are on the cusp of advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals but Giannis Antetokounmpo warned "our job is not done" against the Miami Heat.

Milwaukee are one win away from sweeping reigning Eastern Conference champions Miami in the opening round of the NBA playoffs following Thursday's 113-84 rout in Game 3.

Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo posted 17 points and 17 rebounds to go with five assists, while Khris Middleton (team-high 22 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points and 12 assists) contributed en route to a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The Bucks – who were eliminated by the Heat in last season's Conference semi-finals 4-1 – can seal a sweep on Saturday but two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo is taking nothing for granted.

"We are going to stay focused," Antetokounmpo told reporters as the Bucks attempt to win their first championship since 1971. "Our job is not done here."

"The last two games haven't been easy," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously, we were up 30, but it's not easy.

"I'll say this: I'll say by us doing our job, I'm not surprised that we're able to win a game because once we focus on ourselves, play together, have fun and be tough, good things are going to happen. And in these three games, good things have happened for us."

Holiday – an All-Star in 2013 – was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in November as part of Milwaukee's title pursuit.

The 30-year-old produced another impressive display against the Heat following his 15-assist performance in Game 2 as he became the first Bucks player with back-to-back 10-plus assist games in the playoffs since Sam Cassell in 2001.

"We got better from last year," Antetokounmpo said. "We've had great additions to the team that help us do that."

PJ Tucker – another recruit after he was traded to the Bucks by the Houston Rockets in March – added: "We dogs. That's all we talk about. That's all I ever talk about.

"We gotta be dogs. People's perceptions of us and what people think in the past, we're erasing all of that."

Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed his love for football after leading the Milwaukee Bucks past the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference matchup in the NBA playoffs.

Antetokounmpo led the way as the Bucks routed the Heat 132-98 on Monday for a commanding 2-0 lead in the first-round series.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo posted 31 points in 31 minutes, while also tallying 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals on home court in Milwaukee.

A superstar with the basketball, Antetokounmpo also demonstrated his football skills after juggling the ball during a break in play against the Heat.

Afterwards, Greece international Antetokounmpo told reporters: "I can do probably like 300 of those.

"I used to play soccer when I was young. My dad used to be a soccer player. I love soccer.

"I wanted to play soccer. I didn't want to play basketball growing up."

Milwaukee – seeded third in the east – used a 46-20 opening quarter to crush Miami in Game 2 of their NBA playoff clash.

Jrue Holiday (11 points and 15 assists) added a double-double of his own, while Bucks team-mate Bryn Forbes made six three-pointers to contribute 22 points off the bench.

The Bucks set a franchise record for threes made in a playoff game after nailing 22 from beyond the arc.

Forbes, who joined the Bucks in November following four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, said: "That was a huge part in me coming here. You know that there would be these opportunities and we would be in the playoffs. ... It's just great to be in this position, be in the playoffs again and have an opportunity and stage."

"It's just how the game goes," Forbes added. "It's ebbs and flows. Some games you're open a lot more. Some games you aren't. Tonight I think we moved the ball great and had a lot of open shots."

Bucks star Holiday hailed Forbes, saying: "If my man got the hot hand, I'm going to him. And he wasn't missing, so at that point we were running everything to him just to -- really just to see what happens."

It was an impressive shooting display from the Bucks as head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "Guys have got to shoot it with confidence. They've got to let it fly. They've got to know they’re going to get threes.

"I think the activity offensively, the attack, can create good looks for us. We've just got to continue to let it fly when you're open."

"Lots of times, there's just so much talent in the league and so many good teams, sometimes you get the early lead and things just happen and it becomes a close game," Budenholzer said. "Today we were able to keep the focus."

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised his star trio Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday after their 124-118 win over the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday all made key contributions in Milwaukee's second victory against Brooklyn in three days – a result which clinched an NBA playoff spot and kept the Bucks in the hunt for a position among the Eastern Conference's top two.

Two-time reigning MVP and Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo led the way with 36 points and 12 rebounds but Middleton and Holiday played important roles in the 32-24 final quarter as Milwaukee rallied from six points down to prevail.

Middleton starred in the fourth quarter both offensively, to finish with 23 points and seven rebounds for the game, and defensively to limit Kevin Durant's impact.

Holiday, who joined the Bucks from the New Orleans Pelicans in November, had 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, along with a key stop at the end.

"We're still trying to catch the right rhythm and find where all three of those guys are playing," Budenholzer said post-game.

"Maybe it's a stretch of one of them. The familiarity and comfort with each other is growing. It's a good thing for us."

Budenholzer was happy to have an NBA playoff spot secured, but more delighted that his side are playing well down the stretch, having now claimed back-to-back wins over a Nets team widely regarded as title favourites.

He also had special praise for Middleton's job on Durant, who still finished with 32 points.

"I thought he was good," Budenholzer said as the Bucks eye their first championship since 1971. "You've got to just keep coming.

"Great, great scorer, so you've got to make everything hard for him. we threw a lot of bodies at Durant tonight.

"Khris being able to finish a lot of those minutes in the fourth quarter was great work by him.

"What you need in the fourth quarter, is great defense and he stepped up down the other end too.

"But the team around him, it always takes the whole group."

Milwaukee Bucks star Jrue Holiday labelled Stephen Curry an "alien" as the Golden State Warriors superstar continues to dazzle in the NBA.

Curry had scored at least 30 points in his previous 11 outings – the longest run by any player aged 33 or over in NBA history – before the two-time MVP's streak came to an end against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant previously held the record for successive games with at least 30 points by a player 33 or older, managing 10 in a row in 2012.

Curry's streak started with 32 points against the Chicago Bulls on March 30. Across the 11 games the three-time champion hit 78 three-pointers, also an NBA record.

"He's an alien. I don't understand. I don't understand," 2013 All-Star Holiday said on "The Old Man and the Three" podcast before Friday's clash between the Warriors and Denver Nuggets.

"I fouled him on a half-court shot when we played them [on April 6].

"I'm pretty sure he didn't even look at the rim, and he still almost made it. And they didn't call the foul.

"I'm like what is wrong with you? What do you take [laughter]? Can I get some of it please because you're insane dude."

"He's putting this in the little kids' heads, like this is OK to try," continued Holiday. "No, it's not OK to try. Only he can do this."

Dallas Mavericks veteran JJ Redick, who hosts the podcast, added: "He's on a different planet right now."

"He's tapped into something -- some transcendent level of consciousness or something," he said.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been the regular season pacesetters in the NBA's Eastern Conference in recent seasons, but they sit third heading into the closing stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

It is the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets who instead lead the way, tied with 39-20 records - 2.5 games clear of Milwaukee.

Yet the Sixers had first place outright prior to Thursday's game against the Bucks in which they failed to recover from a tough first quarter.

Philly do not have to wait long for revenge, though, with the two teams meeting once more at Fiserv Forum on Saturday.

MVP challenges are on the line as well as seedings in the East as two potential title contenders get prepared to go again.

TOP PERFORMERS

Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid was the MVP favourite until a knee injury at the start of March that forced him to miss almost a month of action.

He was averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and the 76ers had a 24-7 record with him on the floor. They were 2-5 in the seven games Embiid missed prior to his extended lay-off.

The center returned earlier this month, seemingly with enough time to wrestle the top individual award back from Nikola Jokic, and he has since averaged 30.1 points, missing only a single game.

But the Sixers have now lost three in a row and Embiid's hopes appear to be fading after he was outshone by the reigning MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

It does not appear there will be a third MVP win in a row for Antetokounmpo after his momentum was checked by sitting six straight games.

But the 'Greek Freak' was back to his best against the 76ers, scoring a game-high 27 points, and can focus instead on a first title triumph in the postseason.

And Antetokounmpo feels playing a fellow challenger again on Saturday "prepares you for the playoffs".

"Playing teams back to back is awesome," he said.

"On Saturday, they're going to come out and they're going to play harder, they're going to try to execute. We've got to do the same. We've got to do exactly the same."

KEY BATTLE - SLOW START CAN SINK SIXERS

For the 76ers, "playing harder" will have to start from the tip-off. Their 14-point first-quarter deficit proved too significant against such a talented team.

As the Sixers missed one of the best defensive players in the league in Ben Simmons due to illness, Milwaukee firmly had the upper hand early on.

Philadelphia had no answer as they allowed 40 points, their second-worst mark in a first quarter this year. This came as the Bucks shot at 73.7 per cent from the field through 12 minutes, the best rate among the Sixers' 2020-21 opponents.

Jrue Holiday, a star on both ends, had seven of his 12 points in the first three minutes alone.

"That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted," Doc Rivers said. "We didn't offer any resistance."

HEAD TO HEAD

Thursday's game was the teams' second this season and the second Milwaukee victory after they won in overtime in March, again led by Antetokounmpo (32 points, 15 rebounds).

Antetokounmpo has averaged 20.8 points for his career but 22.6 against the 76ers, against whom he boasts a 19-5 record and posted a career-high 52 in 2019.

The Bucks have a 113-102 lead over Philadelphia all-time in the regular season.

The Milwaukee Bucks lost again without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday, but coach Mike Budenholzer believes the two-time MVP's absence can benefit his team.

The Bucks completed a six-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks, going down 116-101 at American Airlines Center.

Antetokounmpo featured in the first three of those games, yet he missed the next three after scoring a season-high 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 'Greek Freak' leads Milwaukee in points (28.8), assists (6.2) and rebounds (11.4) per game, while also contributing 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals.

Knee soreness is impacting Antetokounmpo's bid for a third straight MVP triumph, but it is also hindering the Bucks. The team are 29-16 when their superstar plays but just 3-3 without him.

Milwaukee were not helped against the Mavs by poor shooting displays from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, their second and third men.

Middleton was an alarming 6-for-27 from the field for 14 points – 22.2 per cent, his second-worst outing of the year – as Holiday, who signed a lucrative contract extension last week, was 6-for-16 for 13 points.

Budenholzer acknowledged both players must perform better as he suggested the Bucks needed to adapt to playing when Antetokounmpo is not on the floor.

The 26-year-old forward played just 30.4 minutes per game last season when Milwaukee led the East, but he has been relied on for 34.0 minutes in 2020-21.

"The guys are getting more opportunities," Budenholzer said. "There's a little bit more of a load on both Jrue and Khris. I think they're learning to take that.

"We didn't make enough shots tonight; Khris, Jrue didn't make enough shots. We're getting better. We'll learn from these things.

"Playing without Giannis, he can't play 48 minutes, so I think there's going to be good stretches for us when Giannis doesn't play and we'll grow from these experiences playing without him."

While the Bucks struggled without their big name, Dallas got 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds from Luka Doncic.

But the Slovenian also earned his 12th technical foul of the season. That tally has steadily increased over his NBA career – five in his rookie year, nine last year – and he is now just four shy of a one-game suspension.

"He's aware," coach Rick Carlisle said. "My level of concern is there. But look, he's an emotional competitor. It all comes from the right place.

"He's smart, he knows where the count is. If he's going to get his 16th, he'll get it in a situation where it's time for a day of rest anyway. I'm not really that worried about it."

It was a big win for the Mavs, who returned to winning ways after a shock defeat to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday ended a run of five successive victories since Doncic returned from a short lay-off due to illness.

"This was a playoff-type game [against the Bucks], playoff-calibre in terms of intensity and competitiveness and the talent on the floor," Carlisle said. "We did a much, much better job, top to bottom, than we did last night."

Dallas also got 26 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks out of Kristaps Porzingis. Eleven of his points came in the fourth quarter on 4-for-4 shooting after failing to attempt a single field goal in the final 12 minutes against the Rockets.

Porzingis said of his relationship with Doncic: "We're trying to play together and help each other. We want to win – at the end, we all want to win here.

"We have to keep playing, keep playing together, playing well and helping each other."

It is safe to say Jrue Holiday enjoyed himself in the NBA last week.

The former All-Star sparkled for the Milwaukee Bucks before the weekend brought news of a four-year, $160million extension.

On the evidence of his performances since last Monday, it was a well-earned reward.

Holiday leads this week's NBA Heat Check, powered by Stats Perform data, alongside a man he might have counted as a team-mate this season.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Jrue Holiday

The Bucks paid a big price to get Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans in a bid to persuade Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay. It was a move that worked in that sense and is increasingly showing its merit on the floor, too.

Milwaukee may have tumbled to third in the East this season, but they are showing signs they might finally provide a threat in the playoffs.

Holiday will be key to that, as he was during a three-game winning run last week. After starting their road trip with defeat at the Los Angeles Clippers, in which Holiday scored 24 points, the point guard tallied 28, 22 and 33 respectively in victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

An average of 26.8 over those seven days lifted Holiday's seasonal mark from 15.9 to 17.0.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

As the Bucks desperately sought reinforcements to prove their ambition to Antetokounmpo, a deal for Bogdanovic from the Kings was reportedly struck. Instead, however, he signed for the Atlanta Hawks.

Milwaukee are certainly a more serious prospect than Atlanta, but the Hawks are belatedly finding some form with the help of Bogdanovic.

The forward had just two starts for the season until late March but has since been in the lineup for six successive games, including a run of three wins last week that started with his 28-point display against the San Antonio Spurs in which he shot 70.6 per cent from the field.

Gary Trent Jr.

Last week allowed teams around the NBA to get a good look at the players they traded for before the deadline, and the Toronto Raptors could only be pleased with Trent's output.

He averaged 23.3 for the week, albeit the Raptors only won once. Trent had a staggering plus/minus of 54 in that demolition of the Golden State Warriors.

Norm Powell, the man Trent was traded for, tallied 13.7 points across three Portland games, although the Blazers won two of them.
 

GOING COLD...

Victor Oladipo

While Trent has had an instant impact, the same certainly cannot be said for Oladipo.

The two-time All-Star was the Miami Heat's most notable signing as a move for Trent's new Toronto team-mate Kyle Lowry did not materialise, while LaMarcus Aldridge headed for the Brooklyn Nets after agreeing a buy out with the Spurs.

On his third team of 2021, Oladipo was averaging 20.8 points for the season prior to his Heat debut but then tallied a measly total of 14 points across his first two games as a Miami player.

Zach LaVine

Oladipo's is not the only switch yet to prove profitable, with the Chicago Bulls making a big move to bring in Nikola Vucevic to pair fellow All-Star LaVine.

But LaVine, previously scoring 27.9 points in 2020-21, averaged an underwhelming 20.0 last week.

No player in the NBA saw a greater decrease in their made shots from three-point range - 3.5 previously but just 1.3 last week - and LaVine was among three Bulls in the top five in that unwanted table (also Vucevic and Lauri Markkanen).

DeAndre Jordan

Like LaVine, Jordan was not on the move ahead of the deadline. But he was still negatively impacted.

When Aldridge chose Brooklyn over Miami, the Nets center - already struggling to hold off surprise star Nicolas Claxton - saw his opportunities decrease further.

Jordan played in only two of his team's four games last week, appearing for less than 12 minutes in each and averaging 1.5 rebounds down from 7.5 for the season.

Milwaukee Bucks star Jrue Holiday has signed a lucrative four-year contract extension worth up to $160million with the NBA franchise.

The Bucks confirmed the deal on Sunday, with All-Star Holiday declining his player option for the 2021-22 season as part of the agreement.

Holiday's agent Jason Glushon told ESPN that the deal includes a player option for the fourth year in 2024-25 as the Bucks – chasing their first championship since 1971 – solidify their core of two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and the former.

The Bucks acquired guard Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans via a four-team trade in November.

"I'm a Buck for life," Holiday said in a video via Milwaukee's Twitter account. "Just know that I'm glad to be a part of Bucks Nation. Let's do some big things, man. I'm really excited."

Holiday is averaging 17.0 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.82 steals (second in the NBA) in 31.7 minutes per game this season.

In Holiday's 35 starts, the Bucks have tallied a 25-10 record. He is shooting a career-high 50.9 per cent from the field to go with 39.0 per cent from three-point range.

Holiday is one of four players in the NBA (Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jokic, Fred VanVleet) to be averaging at least 16.0 points, 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in 2020-21.

"We are grateful for the time we've been able to spend learning about the Bucks organisation, our team and the greater Milwaukee community," said Jrue and Lauren Holiday.

"We appreciate how Jon [Horst], Coach Bud [Mike Budenholzer] and the entire staff, along with our team-mates and fans, have supported us since the trade to Milwaukee. We have a special group that wants to put in the work and compete for a championship every year.
 
"We look forward to working closely with our fans and the community, as well as continue to provide more opportunities and resources with our JLH Fund throughout Milwaukee. We're incredibly blessed to stay here, and we believe Milwaukee will be home for our family for many years to come."

Holiday holds career averages of 15.9 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 751 career games (675 starts).

"Jrue is one of the top guards in the NBA and we are thrilled to sign him to this extension," said Bucks general manager Jon Horst. "Adding him to our team has made us better on both ends of the floor.

"He's an elite defender and an impactful offensive player with the ability to score, shoot and facilitate. Beyond basketball, Jrue and his wife Lauren have already demonstrated the real impact they're willing to make in our community through the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Fund."

The Utah Jazz enjoyed a record-breaking performance as the NBA leaders crushed the lowly Orlando Magic 137-91.

Utah set an NBA record for three-pointers in a half – 18 in the first – en route to a ninth consecutive victory on Saturday.

Donovan Mitchell (22 points) made six-of-seven shots from three-point range for the Jazz, who finished with 26 threes in total.

The Jazz have now hit 25-plus threes on four occasions this season – only the 2018-19 Houston Rockets have achieved the feat in league history.

Joe Ingles (17 points) contributed five threes, while Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) was four-of-six from beyond the arc in Utah, where the Jazz extended their franchise-best home winning streak to 22.

"This is one of those nights for us where we played really well, and we played the right way," said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. "We played a team that is going through a transition. That said, we were happy with the way we played and continue to emphasize our identity as a team."

In Philadelphia, All-Star and MVP candidate Joel Embiid returned from a 10-game absence to help the 76ers past the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-113.

Embiid had been sidelined since last month due to bone bruising in his left knee but made his long-awaited comeback against the Timberwolves, posting 24 points and eight rebounds.

Sixers team-mate Tobias Harris top-scored with 32 points as Philadelphia moved level with the idle Brooklyn Nets atop the Eastern Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns' monster display of 39 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Timberwolves, who also had 27 points from Anthony Edwards.

 

Holiday fuels Giannis-less Bucks

With two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo absent due to left knee soreness, Jrue Holiday starred with a double-double of 33 points (a season high) and 11 assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 129-128 win at the Sacramento Kings. Milwaukee team-mate Donte DiVincenzo (12 points and 14 rebounds) also had a double-double.

Russell Westbrook's 26 points and 14 rebounds were not enough as the Washington Wizards were swept aside by the Dallas Mavericks 109-87.

The Miami Heat topped the Cleveland Cavaliers behind double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (15 points and 11 assists).

All-Star Julius Randle posted 20 of his 29 points in the first quarter to inspire the New York Knicks' 125-81 rout of the Detroit Pistons. The Knicks, who snapped a three-game skid, recorded their largest margin of victory since 1996.

 

Horror show for Thunder

It was a forgettable game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were humbled 133-85 by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder shot at just 35.3 per cent away to the Trail Blazers. Theo Maledon was one-of-12 shooting from the field, making just one of his seven three-point attempts for seven points in 22 minutes. Thunder team-mate Aleksej Pokusevski was three-of-13 from the field.

It was a similar story for Terrence Ross and the Magic. Ross was two of 11 from the field in 26 minutes off the bench.

 

Turner tames Spurs

Myles Turner was an immovable force during the closing stages, his defense thwarting the San Antonio Spurs as the Indiana Pacers prevailed 139-133 in overtime.

 

Saturday's results

Dallas Mavericks 109-87 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 125-81 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 115-101 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 122-113 Minnesota Timberwolves
Indiana Pacers 139-133 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Utah Jazz 137-91 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 133-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Milwaukee Bucks 129-128 Sacramento Kings

 

Lakers at Clippers

Bragging rights will be on the line when injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (31-18) face neighbours the Los Angeles Clippers (32-18) – who have dropped two straight games – on Sunday.

The Milwaukee Bucks should not be in "panic mode" despite their worst losing run in almost three years, according to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks have led the NBA over the past two regular seasons but are now on a four-game losing streak for the first time since March 2018, falling to 16-12.

Their latest setback came at home to the Toronto Raptors, who closed out a 124-113 win on Tuesday, led by Fred VanVleet's 33 points.

Milwaukee, who host Toronto again on Thursday, have allowed 123 points per game over this miserable stretch and have missed Jrue Holiday, who has been out for five games due to health and safety protocols.

But two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo insisted the poor run is "not the end of the world".

"I kind of have a feeling that everybody is in a panic mode, which should not be the case," he said after contributing 34 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and two blocks against the Raptors.

"We should keep improving, we should keep playing good basketball, we should watch the film, and at the end of the day, we've got to go out there and compete. When you come here, nothing can be easy."

He added: "At the end of the day, we lost four in a row; we're not going home. We're still here. It's not the playoffs.

"Obviously, it's frustrating. We want to win, especially a game like this. A big game, guys playing hard.

"You want to come out and win the game, but it doesn't always go your way. But you've always got to look at the bright side of it. You still have another opportunity on Thursday.

"So, keep getting better, watch the film, improve, keep everybody in a good place, and it's not the end of the world right now."

Antetokounmpo acknowledged Holiday's absence has been keenly felt.

The former New Orleans Pelicans guard has a team-best plus/minus of 7.5, posting 16.4 points and 5.4 assists while also leading the Bucks in steals (44 at 1.9 per game).

"We have to be better," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously, one of our best players on the team and playmakers and best defenders on the team is not playing with us.

"Obviously, it's not an excuse. I'm not a guy that gives excuses. But it's a big part of who we are, and we need him."

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