Milwaukee's NBA Most Valuable Player contender Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points to lead the Bucks to a hard-fought 116-109 victory yesterday over reigning MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
Antetokounmpo added 21 rebounds and was a physical presence on both ends of the floor as the Bucks battled back from a 60-54 halftime deficit to end the Rockets' 10-game home winning streak.
"He just does everything," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the imposing Antetokounmpo, who drained 11 of his 14 free-throw attempts. "He has a huge impact on winning.”
The Bucks led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter, but Harden and the Rockets had whittled that lead to three with less than two minutes remaining.
Harden, who finished with 42 points and 11 rebounds, missed another three-pointer and the Bucks held on to take their record to 29-11 -- percentage points ahead of the 31-12 Toronto Raptors for best record in the league.
In Boston, the Celtics led by as many as many as 31 points in a wire-to-wire 135-108 romp over the Indiana Pacers.
The Celtics notched their fourth straight victory -- all coming at home before they set off on a road trip that starts in Miami today.
Starting forward Marcus Morris and reserve Jaylen Brown both scored 22 points for the Celtics and Jayson Tatum added 20.
In Washington, the Wizards made the most of a return home with a convincing 123-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers -- a day after the Sixers dominated the Wizards 132-115 in Philly.
The Sixers had won four in a row, but they have now lost nine straight in the nation's capital, a skid dating back to November 2013.
Bradley Beal's 34 points included 14 straight for the Wizards in the fourth quarter. Otto Porter Jr. scored 23 and Trevor Ariza added 17 for Washington, with Joel Embiid leading the 76ers with 35 points and 14 rebounds.
The Brooklyn Nets overcame a 19-point first-half deficit to beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-100 in New York.
D'Angelo Russell led the Nets with 23 points. DeMarre Carroll added 17 off the bench and starting guard Joe Harris and reserve Spencer Dinwiddie added 16 apiece for Brooklyn, who edged ahead of Miami for the sixth spot in the East.
The New Orleans Pelicans also climbed out of an early hole erasing a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 140-124.
Anthony Davis scored 38 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for the Pelicans, who won a third straight game for the first time since November.*AFP
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