Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks shook off any All-Star break hangover in a hurry.
Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, Khris Middleton hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds and the NBA-leading Bucks held off Boston 98-97 on Thursday night in Milwaukee.
On the second-to-last position, Marcus Smart forced a jump ball with Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo tipped the jump to Brook Lopez, who deflected it toward the basket, but missed as the shot clock expired.
The referees huddled during the timeout and put 3.5 seconds on the clock for the Celtics.
Smart inbounded the ball over Lopez and dropped a pass into Kyrie Irving’s hands at the top of the key. With Eric Bledsoe draped all over him, Irving drove the lane and missed an awkward shot as time expired. The Bucks won the season series 2-1, their first over the Celtics since 2014-15.
The Celtics drew up a final play that put the ball in Irving’s hands.
“Kyrie with the ball. That’s what we wanted,” Al Horford said. “Get the ball in Kyrie’s hands. Let him create. I felt like we put ourselves in a good position there.”
Irving took a philosophical approach.
“It happens,” he said. “Just part of the break and coming off and playing the first game, getting the cold ones out.”
For Antetokounmpo and Irving, who had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth, it was a rematch since meeting Sunday at the All-Star Game. Antetokounmpo captained Team Giannis, and Irving started for Team LeBron.
Irving, who has dealt with a variety of injuries this season, used the All-Star Game to get ready for his return to action. He had missed the two previous games with a strained right knee and 11 overall.
76ers 106, Heat 102: Tobias Harris had 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, JJ Redick hit a late 3-pointer and Philadelphia overcame All-Star center Joel Embiid’s absence to win at home. Ben Simmons added 21 points, Boban Marjanovic had 19 — including three free throws in the final 1½ minutes — and Jimmy Butler 18. Embiid will be out at least a week with a sore left knee.
Trail Blazers 113, Nets 99: Jusuf Nurkic had 27 points and 12 rebounds, new backup Enes Kanter added 18 points and nine boards in his Portland debut, and the Trail Blazers won in Brooklyn. The center tandem was so good that the Trail Blazers didn’t need a big night from All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who was 5-for-21 from the field. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Cavaliers 111, Suns 98: Cedi Osman scored 19 points, Kevin Love had 16 points and 11 rebounds and host Cleveland sent Phoenix to its franchise-record 16th straight loss. NBA-worst Phoenix (11-49) topped the record of 15 set March 2-April 1, 2018. The Suns’ last victory was Jan. 12 over Denver.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Bucks-hold-off-Celtics-13635906.php.