NBA

Giannis stars as Bucks reach 50 wins after eclipsing Suns, Nuggets fall to fourth straight loss

By Sports Desk March 14, 2023

The Milwaukee Bucks underlined their NBA title favouritism as they reached 50 wins for the season with a commanding 116-104 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo backed up Monday's 40-point return against the Sacramento Kings with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists at the Footprint Center.

The Bucks have won 20 of their past 22 games, including a 15-game winning streak during that stretch, while the Suns have now lost three consecutive games.

Milwaukee's record is 50-19, pulling clear of the Boston Celtics (47-22) in second in the Eastern Conference, while the 37-31 Suns remain among the mayhem in the tight Western Conference playoffs race.

The Suns had rallied from a 57-48 half-time deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter but the Bucks steadied, with Antetokounmpo's block on Devin Booker's two-point attempt among the highlights.

Bucks center Brook Lopez added 21 points with 10 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Booker top scored for the Suns, still missing Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury, with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting, while Chris Paul added 11 points with eight assists. Phoenix only made eight three-pointers for the game.

Nuggets fall to fourth straight defeat

The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets slumped to their fourth straight defeat despite a third-quarter rally, going down 125-110 to the Toronto Raptors.

Fred VanVleet scored 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting including eight triples as the Raptors flew out of the blocks with a franchise-record 49-point first quarter, improving their record to 33-26.

The Nuggets fall to 46-23 amid their slump, with Nikola Jokic scoring 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Porter Jr added 23 points with five three-pointers.

Lakers hit franchise record in key win over Pels

Anthony Davis produced a bounce-back display after his "terrible" showing two nights ago with 35 points and 17 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers won 123-108 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Malik Beasley added 24 points, shooting seven-of-12 from beyond the arc, as the Lakers moved closer to .500 with a 34-35 record to boost their playoffs hopes.

Beasley's three-point shooting helped the Lakers achieve a franchise record for threes made in a half, with 15 as a team before half-time.

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    The Phoenix Suns will likely be without Devin Booker for 7-to-10 days after the four-time All-Star sprained his right ankle late in Saturday’s 118-109 loss to the Houston Rockets.

    Booker had 24 points in 38:21 of action before getting injured when he stepped on teammate Royce O'Neale's foot.

    Booker is averaging 27.5 points - second on the Suns behind Kevin Durant (27.8) – and leads the team with 6.8 assists per game while also averaging 4.6 rebounds.

    Booker, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the only three players in the NBA averaging at least 27.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

    Phoenix (35-26) is in seventh place in the Western Conference and battling a handful of teams for positioning in an attempt to avoid the NBA Play-In Tournament.

  • LeBron James 'hated' circumstances of reaching record 40,000-point mark LeBron James 'hated' circumstances of reaching record 40,000-point mark

    LeBron James "hated" the circumstances in which he reached 40,000 career points as it came in a defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The NBA's record all-time scorer hit the latest milestone in his career in the second quarter of his side's 124-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

    James scored a team-high 26 points, taking his overall tally to 40,017, but it was not enough as the Lakers' two-game winning run was snapped.

    "For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said after the contest at Crypto.com Arena

    "I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. 

    "We played some good basketball tonight, but wasn't able to close it out. So, it's bittersweet but I enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

    James is averaging 25.3 points per game this season, which is currently the 17th-best return of any player.

    "I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 and even 20 years ago," James added.

    The loss was the Lakers' eighth in a row against the Nuggets and continued a theme of James losing games in which he hits a milestone figure.

    James also fell short in games that saw him hit 10,000 rebounds, 10,000 assists, 30,000 points and a record 38,388 points.

    The 20-time NBA All-Star surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 40-year points record last season and is showing no signs of letting up.

    Of all active players, the Phoenix Suns' Kevin Durant is closest to James with 28,342 points, while Stephen Curry has 23,254 points.

    Asked if James' ever-growing tally will ever be surpassed, team-mate Anthony Davis said: "Possibly Steph, the way he shoots the ball, but I guess not?"

    "It's just tough because he's not finished playing, so it's only going to increase. That gap is only going to get bigger and bigger.

    "So as of right now, I don't see anybody breaking his record."

    James does not quite see it that way, though, adding: "We have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball.

    "If they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it. Records are always meant to be broken. Never say never."

    The 33-29 Lakers are 10th in the Western Conference ahead of facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

  • Curry laments 'perfect storm' as Warriors demolished by Celtics Curry laments 'perfect storm' as Warriors demolished by Celtics

    Stephen Curry lamented a "perfect storm" as the Golden State Warriors were on the end of a 140-88 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

    The loss at TD Garden was the fourth-worst the Warriors, who entered the contest in good form, have suffered in franchise history.

    It marks the third time this season the Celtics have won by 50 points or more, meanwhile, as they racked up an 11th victory in a row.

    "The way that they've been playing, they seem very sure of themselves in their identity and who they are," Curry said. "Give them credit. 

    "They came out and whooped us from the jump, and it was a perfect storm of a rough [day] on our end and them taking it to us."

    Curry played despite being questionable, but he did not feature in the second half as he finished with a season-low tally of four points.

    The Warriors will hope to have Curry back to full fitness for their return to action against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

    "This was not a day off for Steph, though he probably could have used one," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.

    "He's played so well and for so long this year. Hopefully the next few days he'll get it recharged."

    Jaylen Brown led the scoring with 29 points, while birthday boy Jayson Tatum had 26 in the Celtics' third-biggest victory in franchise history.

    Boston led by a franchise-record 44 points at the midway point and went on to extend their advantage to 51 before making some changes.

    "It feels great, but, at the same time, it's always within humility," Brown said. "We don't take the game for granted. 

    "We didn't come and mess around and that's just how we show our respect to the game, we handle business and take care of it.

    "It's a lot of respect for the Golden State Warriors, but we feel like it's our time now."

    The 48-12 Celtics lead the Eastern Conference, while the Warriors are ninth in the Western Conference with a record of 32-28. 

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