Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket during the game against the Indiana Pacers on January 27, 2023 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (AFP)
The Bucks scored a season-high 85 first-half points and led by as many as 33 before fending off a late Pacers rally in Indianapolis, notching a third straight victory.
Indiana had sliced the deficit to eight points with just over four minutes remaining, trying to make the most of Antetokounmpo’s troubles at the free-throw line by fouling him repeatedly.
The Milwaukee star, who pulled down 12 rebounds and handed out six assists, helped fend them off by making five free throws in the space of a minute and while the Pacers got the gap to seven points with 2:06 to play they would get no closer.
Jrue Holiday scored 23 points and handed out nine assists for the Bucks.
Myles Turner led the Pacers with 24 points.
Antetokounmpo’s dominant performance, including a breathtaking fourth-quarter dunk over Oshae Brissett, came a day after he was confirmed as a starter and team captain for next month’s All-Star game, as the top vote-getter from the Eastern Conference.
It will be the third time the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player has had the honor, after leading teams in the mid-season exhibition in 2019 and 2020.
The Grizzlies fell 111-100 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis, where the game was preceded by a moment of silence to honor the memory of Tyre Nichols — the Memphis man whose fatal beating has led to murder charges against five police officers.
Anthony Edwards scored 25 points to lead the Timberwolves.
Ja Morant had a triple-double of 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for Memphis, but the Grizzlies finished their road trip 0-5 on the heels of an 11-game winning streak.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said before the game his team had been saddened by the “devastating” news emerging from Memphis about Nichols during their weeklong road trip.
“It’s been hard to process,” Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of emotion. We can’t wait to get back home to put our arms around everyone in Memphis as they struggle with the senseless loss of life.”
The death of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, after he was beaten by five Black officers after he was stopped on suspicion of reckless driving, sparked concern around the NBA.
The league and multiple teams as well as individual players posted statements offering condolences to Nichols’s family and urging calm protest as police in Memphis released video footage on Friday of the beating.
Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. addressed a tweet before the game to Nichols’s family saying “my teammates and I are and have been paying attention. We are with you.”
The NBA said in a statement it remained “committed to partnering with advocates, policymakers and law enforcement to work toward solutions to the issues we continue to face,” the league said.
Warriors pull away
In San Francisco, Stephen Curry scored 35 points and Klay Thompson added 29 as the NBA champion Golden State Warriors pulled away late to polish off the Toronto Raptors 129-117.
Curry also handed out 11 of the Warriors’ 40 assists in an entertaining shoot-out that saw the hosts finally pull away with a 31-point fourth quarter.
Jonathan Kuminga scored 15 points to lead Golden State’s reserves — who outscored their Raptors counterparts 39-26.
Fred VanVleet had 28 points and 10 assists for the Raptors, who lost O.G. Anunoby to a wrist injury in the first half when he came down hard on his left side when he was fouled as he soared toward the basket.
In Oklahoma City, the Thunder capitalized on the absence of Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell to surprise the Cavaliers 112-100.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 35 points, his fourth straight game with at least 30 points as Oklahoma City fight to get themselves into the postseason play-in tournament.
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