Sports

Giannis leads the Bucks over the Thunder, while the 76ers beat Harden’s Clippers

LOS ANGELES: Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks in a showdown of NBA contenders against Oklahoma City on Sunday (March 24), while James Harden lost his first meeting with Philadelphia since being traded by the 76ers.

Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and grabbed a season-high 19 rebounds to lead Milwaukee to a 118-93 victory over Oklahoma.

Khris Middleton posted his second career triple-double – and first since 2018 – with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Bucks, whose defensive performance held the Thunder to a season-low 37.1 percent shooting percentage.

“It was cool,” Middleton said of his rare feet. “My teammates made a lot of shots for me. It was a good win against a good team. But we have to continue to build on that for the rest of the season.”

Oklahoma City fell 49-21, a half-game behind Denver at the top of the Western Conference and a half-game ahead of third-place Minnesota.

Milwaukee improved to 46-25 and finished second in the Eastern Conference by three games over Cleveland.

Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored just 12 points, his second-worst performance of the season. For the NBA’s second-leading scorer, just ahead of Antetokounmpo, he scored at least 20 points per game in 29 games.

“They were firing on all cylinders,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “They have guys who have won a lot in this league. We had the chance to see where we stood in comparison. We didn’t go the way we wanted to do, but we learned a lot of lessons.”

The Bucks outscored the Thunder 34-17 in the third quarter and finally pulled away, opening the fourth quarter with a 10-3 run to seal Oklahoma City’s fate.

“It was our busiest game,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. “We were so physical. You could see that. Offensively, we took what was there instead of forcing it.”

Harden, who forced a trade from Philadelphia to the Los Angeles Clippers last November, suffered defeat in the first meeting between the NBA clubs since the deal.

Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey each scored 24 points to lead the 76ers in a 121-107 road victory.

The Sixers, still without injured 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, took an early lead and halted a late comeback for the win.

Harden had 12 points and shot 0 of 6 from 3-point range, but the 34-year-old guard – a former MVP and three-time NBA scoring champion – added a game-high 14 assists.

Harden was dissatisfied with not being replaced in the offseason and was transferred on a seven-player contract a few days into the season.

Kawhi Leonard and backup Norman Powell each scored 20 points to lead the Clippers.

The 76ers improved to 39-32, one game behind Indiana, and occupied the sixth and final East playoff spot outside of play-in games.

The Clippers slipped to 44-26, just a half-game ahead of New Orleans and fourth in the West.

New Orleans got 36 points from Zion Williamson, a season-high, and 23 from CJ McCollum in a 114-101 win at Detroit, handing the league-worst Pistons (12-59) their sixth straight loss.

Williamson made 13 of 14 shots from the floor and 10 of 14 from the free throw line and dominated with seven rebounds and six assists.

T-WOLVES EDGE WARRIORS

In Minnesota, Anthony Edwards scored 23 points, including three free throws in the final 12 seconds, to seal the Timberwolves’ 114-110 victory over visiting Golden State.

The T-Wolves defeated the Warriors for the first time since 1997-98.

Stephen Curry led Golden State with 31 points.

Anthony Davis scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while LeBron James added 26 points and 10 assists to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 150-145 win over Indiana.

Spencer Dinwiddie added 26 points and Austin Reaves had 25 for the Lakers in their best finish of the season, while Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 36 points.

In Miami, Bam Adebayo had 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler added 15 points and backup Haywood Highsmith contributed 18 points as the Heat defeated Cleveland 121-84.

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