Los Angeles—Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points as the Milwaukee Bucks punched their playoff ticket with a 124-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
The heavyweight showdown between the Eastern Conference rivals did not disappoint, with the two sides matching each other shot-for-shot before the Bucks pulled away in the final quarter.
Antetokounmpo led from the front for Milwaukee, with 12 rebounds, four assists and five turnovers to seal the Bucks win.
Milwaukee improved to 41-24 with the win to remain in third place in the East just behind second-placed Brooklyn, who dropped a third straight game to fall to 43-23.
Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton backed Antetokounmpo with 23 points apiece, while Bryn Forbes added 14 points off the bench.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined for 70 points for Brooklyn, who were once again missing the injured James Harden.
Irving finished with 38 points and Durant added 32, while Joe Harris (12), Jeff Green (10) and Mike James (10) also made double figures.
Antetokounmpo meanwhile downplayed the significance of the Bucks’ victory, which followed a win over the Nets on Sunday.
“Great win, and I’m happy that we were able to put on a show for our fans and build good habits from those games, but that’s all,” Antetokounmpo said. “They don’t mean nothing.
“Nobody’s going to remember these games when we’re in the playoffs.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, Devin Booker scored 31 points as the Phoenix Suns reclaimed top spot 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 place, extended their winning streak to five games.
The Western Conference leaders were pushed all the way, however, by a Cleveland team playing only for pride after being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention 24 hours earlier.
The Suns led by 12 points midway through the third quarter, but the Cavs pulled level at 114-114 with 24 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Phoenix settled the contest with a 15-0 run at the start of overtime to take a 129-114 lead before comfortably closing out the win.
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 off 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, Golden State talisman Steph Curry rattled off another 30-point display, but it was not enough to stop the Dubs from sliding to a 108-103 defeat to the Pelicans.
The Pelicans had been comprehensively outplayed by the Warriors on Monday but bounced back from that loss to claim a victory that keeps their slender hopes of reaching the play-in tournament alive.
Lonzo Ball led the Pels scorers with 33 points, while Zion Williamson finished with 23. The Pelicans are in 11th place in the West, one spot outside the play-in places with a 29-36 record.
Curry, meanwhile, bagged a remarkable 34th 30-point game of the season to finish with 37 points.
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