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Giannis lifts Bucks past Lakers

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 47 points and Khris Middleton grabbed a slice of Milwaukee franchise history as the NBA champion Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 109-102, on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo, a Greek, outmuscled a Lakers lineup still missing injured superstar LeBron James, along with Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn.

He set a tone with 17 points in the first quarter and combined with Middleton late to thwart a Lakers rally bid.

“I wanted to be the aggressor out there,” said Antetokounmpo, whose points total was his highest since he posted 50 in the Bucks’ championship-clinching victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of last season’s National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.

“I wanted to initiate the contact, get in the paint, make the right play and just play with an edge out there,” added the two-time league Most Valuable Player, who added nine rebounds and three assists with one steal and one blocked shot.

With 29 seconds remaining, he sealed the game with two free throws.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 17: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots over Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at Fiserv Forum on November 17, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Stacy Revere / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The Lakers had rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit and led 87-86 with 9:29 left to play.

Middleton, playing in his first game since 30 October after completing Covid-19 protocols, combined with Antetokounmpo on nine straight Bucks points that put Milwaukee up, 95-91.

Middleton’s 16 points included a brace of three-pointers in the fourth quarter that gave Milwaukee the lead for good and tied him with Ray Allen for most in Bucks history with 1,051.

“That’s a very, very special place to be,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Talen-Horton Tucker led the Lakers with 25 points and 12 rebounds while Anthony Davis, nursing a sore hip in the final period, scored 18 points and Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 15 assists for Los Angeles.

The Brooklyn Nets bounced back from a lopsided 117-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors with a 109-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Barclays Center.

One night after coach Steve Nash admitted his team weren’t in the same “category” as the Warriors, James Harden scored 27 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists and Kevin Durant added 23 points for Brooklyn.

The Nets’ 21-point halftime lead was their largest of the season, but the Cavaliers kept the pressure on with a 32-19 third quarter.

The Cavs, led by 25 points from Ricky Rubio, trimmed the deficit to seven points with less than five minutes remaining, but couldn’t get any closer.

Over at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks were booed by their home fans during a 104-98 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, who improved to 4-11.

“Disappointed,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after his team surrendered the lead in the final minutes of a game in which they coughed up 18 turnovers.

“We have to learn from it and get ready for the next one. But we’re capable of doing a lot better.”

Jimmy Butler returned from a three-game absence with a sprained right ankle to lead the short-handed Heat to a 113-98 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Butler delivered a triple-double of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists with one blocked shot to help the Heat — who were without Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry — notch a third straight win.

The Phoenix Suns surged late, finishing on a 9-2 scoring run to clinch a 105-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

In Charlotte, Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre led a second-half offensive charge as the Hornets beat the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Wizards, 97-87.

Rozier led the Hornets with 19 points while Bridges added 17 points with 10 rebounds and five assists.

Oubre contributed 14 off the bench for Charlotte, who were coming off a 106-102 victory over the league-leading Golden State Warriors on Sunday — halting the Warriors’ winning streak at seven games.

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