Los Angeles (AFP)
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points as the Milwaukee Bucks clinched their playoff ticket with a 124-118 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
The heavyweight clash between rivals in the Eastern Conference didn’t disappoint, with the two teams matching up blow-for-blow before the Bucks pulled out in the final quarter.
Antetokounmpo led forward for Milwaukee, with 12 rebounds, four assists and five turnovers to seal the Bucks victory.
Milwaukee improved to 41-24 with the win to stay third in the East, just behind second-placed Brooklyn, which lost a third straight game to drop to 43-23.
Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton backed Antetokounmpo with 23 points each, while Bryn Forbes added 14 points off the bench.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined for 70 points for Brooklyn, who once again missed injured James Harden.
Irving finished with 38 points and Durant added 32, while Joe Harris (12), Jeff Green (10) and Mike James (10) also had doubles.
– Rising suns –
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Devin Booker scored 31 points as the Phoenix Suns reclaimed first place in the Western Conference playoff race with a 134-118 overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Booker went 14 of 27 from the field and added six rebounds with five assists as the Suns, who had already clinched their playoff spot, extended their winning streak to five games.
Western Conference leaders were pushed to the limit, however, by a Cleveland team playing only out of pride after being mathematically knocked out of the playoffs 24 hours earlier.
The Suns led by 12 points midway through the third quarter, but the Cavs reached level 114-114 with 24 seconds left to force overtime at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.
Phoenix settled the game with a 15-0 run early in overtime to take a 129-114 lead before closing the win comfortably.
Chris Paul added 23 points for Phoenix with 16 assists and six rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 22 points. Deandre Ayton had 15 points, while Frank Kaminsky added 11 on the bench.
Isaac Okoro led the Cleveland scorers with 32 points, while Collin Sexton added 29 with seven assists and seven rebounds.
In New Orleans, meanwhile, Golden State talisman Steph Curry threw another 30-point display, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Dubs from sliding to a 108-103 loss to the Pelicans.
The Pelicans were largely outmatched by the Warriors on Monday, but rebounded from the loss for a victory that keeps their hopes slim of reaching the play-in tournament.
Lonzo Ball led the Pels scorers with 33 points, while Zion Williamson finished with 23. The Pelicans are 11th in the West, one spot outside the play-in spots with a 29-36 record.
Curry, meanwhile, won a remarkable 34th 30-point game of the season to finish with 37 points.
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