Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out of the Milwaukee Bucks' road matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Bucks are calling it "right knee soreness" for the two-time MVP and one-time Defensive Player of the Year.

It will be the 12th time Antetokounmpo has missed a game due to injury this season, with the 27-year-old previously playing 59 of a possible 70 before today.

Antetokounmpo is currently third-favourite in both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year odds, averaging a career-high 29.8 points per game, along with 11.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

On a day that saw MVP favourites Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic go head-to-head, it was fellow center Karl-Anthony Towns who stole the headlines.

Towns scored a career-high 60 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 149-139 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

It is the most points scored by any player in a single game this season, ahead of Trae Young and LeBron James, who both scored 56.

After reaching half-time with 24 points, Towns exploded into life after the break, scoring 32 of his side's 46 third-quarter points on his way to final shooting figures of 19-31 from the field, 7-11 from three and 15-16 from the line.

Towns, who is the first center to hit 60 points in a single NBA game since Shaquille O'Neal in March 2000, also grabbed a personal season-high of 17 rebounds, while on the other side Dejounte Murray was no slouch with 30 points and 12 assists, though it was not enough for the Spurs.

A barnstorming first half from the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson set up a decisive 122-109 home victory against the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Thompson started on fire, scoring 21 points (8-12 from the field, 5-8 from three), with three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block as the Warriors went into the half-time leading 67-58.

In an interesting strategic decision, Milwaukee decided to face-guard Steph Curry all the way up to the half-court line when he did not have the ball.

It forced Curry into a decision, where he could either scratch and claw to try and play his usual game, or he could drag his defender out to near half-court, allowing his team-mates to play four-on-four with plenty of extra space.

Curry finished with only seven field goal attempts – his first game this season with less than 10 – but had eight assists, and opened up the game for Thompson and Jordan Poole to dominate.

Thompson finished with a season-high 38 points (15-24 from the field, 8-14 from three), while Poole collected an efficient 30 (9-16 from the field, 5-10 from three, 7-7 from the line).

It was also yet another glimpse of what the seventh overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Jonathan Kuminga, could look like when he is fully formed as the 19-year-old scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, spending long periods of the game holding up defensively against Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo was the sole bright spot for Milwaukee, scoring 31 points (9-17 from the field, 12-18 from the line) to go with his eight rebounds. 

 

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 50 points to help snap the Brooklyn Nets' four-game losing run with a 132-121 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.

Kevin Durant took a backseat to Irving's "master class", as the Nets point guard hit nine three-pointers, shooting at 79 percent from the floor, making 15-of-19.

Irving scored 30 points in the second half, with his Nets teammates contributing 33, helping them claim their fourth win from their past 21 games.

The 29-year-old became one of 22 players in NBA history with five 50-point games, along with becoming the second guard – behind Michal Jordan - in NBA history to have multiple 50-point games while shooting 75 percent or better from the floor.

Durant added 14 points with three rebounds and seven assists while Andre Drummond had 20 points with 14 rebounds.

 

Giannis stars as champions win fifth straight

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 39 points, shooting 13-of-19 including four-of-four from beyond the arc, as the Milwaukee Bucks crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 142-115 for their fifth straight win. Khris Middleton added 25 points while Bobby Portis had 18 points with 14 rebounds.

Devin Booker was still out but the Phoenix Suns triumphed after a late Mikal Bridges block in a 102-99 win over the Orlando Magic. Deandre Ayton had 21 points with 19 rebounds for the Suns.

Ja Morant scored 24 points with eight rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies downed the New Orleans Pelicans 132-111, while Darius Garland became the fourth player in Cleveland Cavaliers history with 40 points and 10 assists in a game (41 and 13) as they won 127-124 over the Indiana Pacers.

 

Splash brothers shooting off

The Golden State Warriors' splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only managed a combined three-of-15 from beyond the arc but they snapped their five-game skid with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Curry and Thompson finished with 15 and 20 points respectively, while Reggie Jackson struggled with two-of-14 shooting for the Clippers.

Jayson Tatum produced a dominant display with 54 points as the Boston Celtics won 126-120 over the Brooklyn Nets who had the rare partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season but their presence would not deny Tatum's brilliance, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Tatum, who scored 34 points in the second half, led the Celtics' late charge as they won after trailing by one point at the final change.

Durant scored 37 points in his second game back from an MCL sprain which kept him out since mid-January, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points.

Irving only managed 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds for the Nets who slip to 32-33, while the Celtics have won 21 of their past 27 games to improve to 39-27.

 

Middleton scores season-high

Khris Middleton scored a season-high 44 points as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Bucks' 132-122 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing both Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols). The Bucks, who have won four straight, stormed home with a 12-1 run over the last three minutes as Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble.

The Houston Rockets snapped their 12-game losing run with a shock 123-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant scored 22 points with six assists. The Utah Jazz closed on Memphis in the west with a 116-103 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a franchise-record 11 three-pointers for his 35 points.

Nikola Jokic scored 46 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, as the Denver Nuggets won 138-130 over the New Orleans Pelicans in over-time. Jokic had 46 points plus 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nugs rallied after squandering a 21-point lead.

 

Allen injury sours Cavs win

The Cleveland Cavaliers won 104-96 over the Toronto Raptors but lost Jarrett Allen indefinitely to a suspected fractured finger. Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Cavs who are 37-27.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday called for reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks to keep improving after they battled past the Chicago Bulls.

The Bucks edged out the Bulls 118-112, with Holiday finishing on 26 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 16 rebounds as Milwaukee made it three wins on the spin.

It was not all straightforward for Mike Budenholzer's side, though, given they went from leading by 14 in the second quarter to trail by seven through the third.

However, Holiday delivered 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks rallied to another victory, just as they did at the Miami Heat to triumph by one on Wednesday.

"It's just a feeling and you know you've got to turn it on," Holiday said.

"It's time for us to lock-in. It's time for us to just concentrate, be aggressive and make good plays, smart plays, down the stretch."

The Bucks are now tied with Chicago for the Central Division lead, both sat on 39-25, with Milwaukee next hosting the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns on Sunday, with the Bulls going up against the Philadelphia 76ers a day later.

"We got to keep it up," Antetokounmpo said. "If good things are going on, you got to keep waking up the next day and keep learning something new, keep evolving, keep improving."

Milwaukee did well to limit a star-studded Bulls line-up. Zach LaVine headed the Chicago scoring with 30 points, while DeMar DeRozan managed 29 but finished 11 for 30 from the field.

DeRozan believes Milwaukee displayed their championship credentials.

"I felt like we competed," he told reporters. "It came down to the last couple minutes. They're defending champs for a reason."

Reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks claimed another big win on Friday as they toppled the Chicago Bulls 118-112.

Jrue Holiday came up big down the stretch to finish on 26 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 16 rebounds as the Bucks made it three wins on the spin.

While the Bucks are regaining form at the right time, the Bulls have now lost four on the bounce, though they hold an identical 39-25 record to Milwaukee.

Holiday hit the game-winning layup with less than two seconds left in the Bucks' win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday and he scored 15 points in the final quarter to help ensure the Bucks' 14th win against the Bulls in their last 15 meetings.

DeMar DeRozan has 29 points but was kept well contained overall, with Zach LaVine top scoring for Chicago with 30.

It was far from plain sailing for the Bucks, however, with Chicago having overturned an initial 14-point deficit to lead by seven after the third quarter.

Suns edge out Knicks as Randle's temper flares 

Next up on the Bucks' tough run are the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns, who scraped onto 51 wins for the season with a 115-114 triumph over the New York Knicks.

Cameron Johnson hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to snag a comeback victory and finish with a career-high 38 points in the process.

The Suns, without Chris Paul and Devin Booker, looked set to lose out with the Knicks leading by 14 in the third quarter, only for Julius Randle to be ejected after a confrontation with Johnson.

Sixers make it five in a row

The Philadelphia 76ers reeled off a fifth straight win as they dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-119.

James Harden had 25 points and 11 rebounds to continue his strong start, while Joel Embiid got a relatively low, by his standards, 22 points on the board. That was no matter for Philadelphia, though, as Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points, with his haul including five three-pointers.

The Utah Jazz had a shocker as they went down 124-90 to the New Orleans Pelicans, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 33 points was not enough as the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and there were victories for the Houston Rockets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic.

Jrue Holiday insisted the Milwaukee Bucks cannot reflect on their dramatic win over the Miami Heat for too long.

Holiday came up with the game-winning lay-up as the Bucks edged out the Heat 120-119 on Wednesday, having trailed by 14 points heading into the final six minutes.

It capped a six-game home stretch in style, though Milwaukee now face tough matchups against the Chicago Bulls and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns.

"We can't really dwell on this win," Holiday told reporters. "We accept it and we love it, but these games are not stopping."

Holiday had 25 points and 11 assists, though Giannis Antetokounmpo was Milwaukee's standout performer with double-double of 28 points and 17 rebounds, with the Greek adding a further five assists.

"We've done it before," Antetokounmpo said as the Bucks moved to 38-25 for the season.

"We did it against Boston. We were down 13 in the Christmas game and came back and won the game."

Coach Mike Budenholzer said: "The guys found a way. They'd do anything they could to keep them from putting it in.

"A lot of plays down the stretch, a lot of guys did things to contribute. The team just stuck to it tonight, played for 48, found a way to get a win against a tough team. A hell of an NBA game."

Antetokounmpo, however, was also involved in a contentious moment that kick-started Milwaukee's comeback.

The Bucks' talisman forced a jump ball against Jimmy Butler, which the Heat believed was worthy of a foul, though no such call came.

"I'm not going to go on a big rant about the officiating," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I'm just shocked. I'm shocked that wasn't a foul on Jimmy as we were trying to inbound.

"We certainly had some other opportunities to be able to close out the game, particularly when we were up four. That's just the way it goes.

"I just can't imagine from my vantage point how that wasn't a foul.

"We did enough for 47 minutes and change to put ourselves in position to win this game. We just couldn't close it out."

Antetokounmpo, of course, pleaded his innocence. 

He explained: "I was able to get my hands on the ball, and at the end of the day, when you want to win, things just happen. That's just instinct talking."

The Miami Heat have surged to the top of the Eastern Conference but will receive a stern test of their credentials on Wednesday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Miami went 9-1 in February to take a two-game lead atop the East, capping a stunning month by routing the Chicago Bulls 112-99 on Monday.

Milwaukee sit two games further back but will be out to prove it is they who are the team to beat as the Bucks aim to successfully defend the NBA title.

The Bucks will not be facing a full-strength Heat team, with Kyle Lowry out for personal reasons and Victor Oladipo absent with a right knee injury.

Being slightly undermanned has not proven an issue for the Heat of late, yet it may be different against the Bucks and their two-time MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo used the month of February to deliver a scarcely needed reminder of why he is arguably the finest basketball player on the planet.

However, having made the NBA Finals two seasons ago, the Heat have shown they can deliver against top-tier opposition.

The Bucks, though, have been a thorn in Miami's side, sweeping them in the first round en route to the title last season, and this encounter may provide an insight into whether the Heat, who have won two out of their meetings with Milwaukee this season, can cause the defending champions serious problems in the postseason.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Miami Heat - Bam Adebayo

No player was more crucial to the Heat's scorching run in February than Adebayo. He led Miami with 22 points per game last month and was fifth in the league in average plus-minus with 12.6. Adebayo was tied 10th in steals per game (1.73) and defensive rebounds (8.2) and ended the month ninth in blocked shots per game (1.55), illustrating his substantial value on the defensive end.

Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks have depth that gives them an excellent chance of repeating as champions but, when it comes to games against the elite, all eyes must be on Antetokounmpo.

He took his game to another level in February, averaging 51.3 points/assists/rebounds per game. Only Luka Doncic (53.8) fared better last month.

KEY BATTLE - Can Heat keep possession?

Miami have thrived this season despite often being lackadaisical in possession.

The Heat's turnover rate of 13.5 per cent is the fourth-highest in the NBA and they are facing a Bucks team whose rate of 12.1 per cent is superior to the league average of 12.5.

In other words, if the Heat want to stay hot against one of their main rivals in the East, they must flip the script and take better care of the ball.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks are looking to continue a recent run of dominance in home games with the Heat, having won the last three meetings in Milwaukee.

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 52 points including a massive dunk and a buzzer-beater as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-105 over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Morant's 52-point haul was the second highest of the NBA season, behind only Trae Young who scored 56 points for the Atlanta Hawks against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 3.

The 22-year-old guard went 22-of-30 from the field including four-of-four from beyond the arc. Morant also hit a ridiculous half-time buzzer-bester after Steve Adams' full-court pass, catching and shooting in one motion.

Earlier in the second quarter, Morant produced a monster one-handed dunk over Spurs center Jakob Poeltl.

Morant's half-century follows up his career-best 46 points against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. It was also the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history.

 

Bucks bounce back with Giannis starring

Reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, had dropped four of their past five games but Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way as they bounced back with a 130-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and six assists, with Bobby Portis adding 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Miami Heat took some ground in the race for top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 112-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls, with Tyler Herro contributing 20 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. DeMar DeRozan's 10-game run of 30-point games was halted, managing only 18 for the Bulls.

D'Angelo Russell's good run of scoring continued with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves boosted their playoffs hopes by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-22, with Karl-Anthony Towns () draining a key late three-pointer.

 

Short-handed Nets blown away

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their 14th loss from their past 17 games, going down miserably 133-97 to the Toronto Raptors at home. Scottie Barnes dominated with 28 points, 16 rebounds and five steals for Toronto while the Nets, missing Kyrie Irving who is ineligible to play home games and head coach Steve Nash in protocols, had few winners

New York Mayor Eric Adams has ruled out the prospect of making an exception to coronavirus rules that would allow Kyrie Irving to play at home for the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving is unvaccinated which means he is unable to play for the Nets when they have games at Barclays Center under current guidelines, even though he can play in the NBA on the road.

A quirk in the rules means away players from other teams can play in New York City even if they have not had the vaccine, a situation Adams accepts "makes no sense" and is "ridiculous".

Adams hopes Irving can play for the Nets at home soon but will not change the rules early for one person because of the example it would set to the city's employees.

"These are the rules and I have to follow the rules," Adams said to CNBC. 

"If I don't, I'm going to open the door that is sending the wrong message to everyday employees.

"Listen, I want Kyrie on the court. I would do anything to get that ring. So badly, I want it. 

"But there's so much at stake here. And I spoke with the owner of the team. We want to find a way to get Kyrie on the court, but this is a bigger issue."

 

Adams added: "I can't have my city closed down again.

"It would send the wrong message just to have an exception for one player when we're telling a countless number of New York City employees, 'If you don't follow the rules, you won't be able to be employed'.

"Businesses have their vaccine mandates. City employees have their vaccine mandates. I have to follow the rules. And trust me, I want Kyrie on the court.

"We are here right now opening our city because of vaccine mandates. We can't close down again. I can't have my city close down again."

Irving said at the weekend he could see "light at the end of the tunnel" in his bid to play home games for the Nets and appreciated comments from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who questioned the rules that allow unvaccinated road players to take to the court in New York.

The Nets (32-29) are at home against the Toronto Raptors (32-27) on Monday, having earned a key road win at NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks last time out, Irving starring with a game-high 38 points.

Kyrie Irving can see "light at the end of the tunnel" after the best performance of his difficult season in the Brooklyn Nets' defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving put up 38 points, as the Nets beat the reigning champions 126-123 on the road on Saturday.

With Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons sidelined, Irving stepped up with a strong performance, finishing 14-of-26 shooting to overshadow Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It was a glimpse of a possibly exciting end to the season for the Nets and Irving, whose appearances have been limited by the vaccine mandate in New York City.

The 29-year-old, who is unvaccinated, has only been able to play in road games until now, but New York City mayor Eric Adams said this week that the mandate is likely to be phased out as cities across the United States begin to remove their COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'm glad that things are kind of settling down and there's light at the end of the tunnel here," Irving said. "Hopefully, I can get back on that home floor playing in the Barclays, and now we can finally have that conversation that you've been dying to have just about turning the page and moving forward beyond this.

"But like I said, I'm not the only one. I feel for everybody that's either in my boat or a similar boat or has dealt with some type of trauma from this. And just wishing everybody well-wishes, always."

 

On the prospect of New York's mandate being lifted, Irving said: "I'm following it as much as you guys are, so just remaining patient and just seeing where things end up in this next week or so, next two weeks, I'm not too sure, but I know as much as you do.

"And I want to say this: I'm very appreciative of all those that are pushing behind the scenes to make our world a better place.

"And with everything calming down with the COVID cases, the most important thing for me was just making sure everyone's okay. I've been on record saying this that it's not about me, that I don't want to feel like it's all on me, but the circumstances this year have not been ideal."

Irving has only played in 15 games this season but has maintained a points average of 25.1, above his career figure of 22.9. That is despite his field-goal percentage (45.9 per cent) dropping to its lowest since his penultimate season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015-16.

He said he was grateful to NBA commissioner Adam Silver for suggesting the New York mandate "doesn't quite make sense" as unvaccinated opposition players were still allowed to play.

"I know his job is not easy, standing in the fire, sometimes, on behalf of our league," he added. "So my respect level went to a whole new one for him, and I'm just grateful that he did that, and he really took one for the team. And I'm grateful for that.

"But like I said, we want to set a great example for the world in what we're doing, and we try to stand for what's right and respect everyone else's decisions and their personal beliefs."

Kyrie Irving was cool under pressure as he scored a season-high 38 points in the Brooklyn Nets' impressive 126-123 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, missed a three-point attempt to send the game to over-time.

The Nets were missing key players Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons but produced a win that showcased their potential having lost 13 of their past 15 games.

New additions Seth Curry (19 points with four three-pointers) and Andre Drummond (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) supported Irving well, with the point guard crucial down the stretch from the stripe.

Bobby Portis scored a career-high eight three-pointers in his 30-point haul along with 12 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks who have lost four of their past five.

 

Ja records career-high haul

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points, while Steven Adams had 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-110. DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak was halted.

Nikola Jokic closed to within five of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time triple-doubles record as the Denver Nuggets won 115-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 73rd career triple-double.

The Boston Celtics claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games with a 113-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, while Trae Young dropped 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks won 127-100 against the Toronto Raptors.

 

Pop's record on hold

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will have to wait a few more days before he can tie the NBA record for regular-season victories after a 133-129 loss to the Miami Heat, with Bam Adebayo scoring a season-high 36 points. Popovich has 1,334 regular-season wins as Spurs coach, putting him one behind Don Nelson.

The Philadelphia 76ers had to "send a message" against the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Joel Embiid, who is excited about what the future might hold.

Embiid was on top form on Thursday, scoring 42 points and adding 14 rebounds and five assists in a supreme display.

Fittingly, he nudged the 76ers ahead for the final time in the fourth quarter, with Philadelphia holding firm to seal a 123-120 victory and snap a six-game losing streak against the Bucks, despite the efforts of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP fell just short of a triple-double, finishing on 32 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

It was a much-needed win for the 76ers heading into the All-Star break, however, with Philadelphia having been thrashed 135-87 by the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

"Man, it sucked, but then again, look at the big picture, they were making everything," Embiid told ESPN when asked how important a response to that defeat was.

"We learned a lot from it, we had to get back to our game and send a message."

Philadelphia beat the Bucks without new arrival James Harden, who is out with a hamstring injury he sustained earlier in February while still playing for the Brooklyn Nets.

"I'm just excited for us to be healthy, for us all to be together," continued Embiid.

"I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and I'm sure my team-mates will follow. We're pretty excited about what we can accomplish."

Embiid came out on top in the battle of two of the NBA's finest performers. He leads the way in the league for points per game (29.6), just ahead of Antetokounmpo (29.4).

"You know, Finals MVP, an MVP of the regular season, so I live for this type of matchup, it's always fun battling against him, a great player, just glad we got the win," Embiid added.

Antetokounmpo told reporters: "We had a lot of open looks, good shots that did not fall, shots that we usually make down the stretch."

Philadelphia's talisman only managed 19 points against Boston, which ended a run of 23 straight games in which he had at least 25 points.

However, he has now had nine games this season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. That is the second-most in a season by a Philadelphia player, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 18 in 1965-66, according to the 76ers' official data.

The 76ers are third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-23 record for the season.

"The one thing the later All-Star break does, when you come out, it's a sprint," 76ers coach Doc Rivers told reporters.

"It's no longer the midway point, where you can ease back from the break. It's a full sprint when you come back."

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