Bucks clinch top seed in East with 130-116 win over Heat
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.
Antetokounmpo sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.
Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.
ROCKETS 113, LAKERS 97
James Harden had 39 points and 12 assists to lead the Houston Rockets over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were playing without LeBron James.
The Lakers, who clinched the top seed in the Western Conference on Monday, didn’t have James because of a sore right groin.
The Rockets were also short-handed, missing Russell Westbrook because of a bruised right quadriceps. But the combination of Harden’s big game and Houston’s long-range shooting were enough to take care of the Lakers. The Rockets made 21 of 57 3’s while Los Angeles hit just 2 of 19.
Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 21 points and Anthony Davis added 17 points with 12 rebounds.
SUNS 114, PACERS 99
Deandre Ayton had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns continued their improbable run in the NBA bubble, beating the Indiana Pacers for their fourth straight win.
Devin Booker added 20 points and 10 assists and Cameron Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Suns pulled away with a 21-0 run that bridged the end of the the third quarter and the start of the fourth.
Malcolm Brogdon had 25 points, six assists and six rebounds to lead the Pacers, who fell to 3-1 in Orlando.
Trailing 75-72 with 2:10 left in the third quarter, Dario Saric scored nine of Phoenix’s 14 points and Cameron Payne added the other five as the Suns finished the quarter on a 14-0 tear. Saric also had four rebounds during the stretch.
The Suns did most of their damage with Booker on the bench with five fouls.
Saric finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Payne chipped in with 15 points.
The win pulls the Suns out of the basement in the Western Conference among the teams in Orlando, passing Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. New Orleans lost to the Kings 140-125 earlier in the day.
KINGS 140, PELICANS 125
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 35 points to help the Sacramento Kings beat the New Orleans Pelicans.
De’Aaron Fox had 30 points and 10 assists and Harrison Barnes added 22 points for the Kings, who got their first win in four tries since the restart. The Kings shot 54%.
Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram each scored 24 points for the Pelicans. Williamson made his first eight shots and ended up making 10 of 12 overall in just under 22 minutes.
JJ Redick scored 18 points and Jrue Holiday added 17 for the Pelicans, who shot 57%. New Orleans fell to 1-3 in the restart.
Both teams are chasing a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Kings pulled even with the Pelicans in the standings and now are 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis with four games remaining. A team needs to be in ninth place and within four games of the eighth-place team to force a playoff.
CLIPPERS 126, MAVERICKS 111
Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks in a possible playoff preview.
Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.
The Clippers entered the night a just half game ahead of Denver, but they shot 54% against the Mavericks to improve to 2-2 in the restart.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points and Luka Doncic added 29 for Dallas, which fell to 1-3 in the restart. Dallas likely will finish as the No. 7 seed, making a first-round matchup with the Clippers a strong possibility.
TRAIL BLAZERS 125, NUGGETS 115
Damian Lillard tied his franchise record with 11 3-pointers and scored 45 points, and the Portland Trail Blazers moved closer to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference by beating the Denver Nuggets.
Lillard was 11 for 18 from 3-point range, plus had 12 assists for Portland. The Blazers (32-38) closed to within a half-game of Memphis in the race for eighth in the West, where a play-in series for the last playoff berth -- and the right to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round -- now seems almost certain.
Gary Trent Jr. had 27 off the bench and Jusuf Nurkic scored 22 for Portland.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Denver (45-24), which remained in the West’s No. 3 spot. The Nuggets played most of the fourth quarter with reserves on the floor, limiting Nikola Jokic to 24 minutes.