Giannis Antetokounmpo remains driven to keep improving for the Milwaukee Bucks after chalking up a new franchise record in the 123-114 win over the Houston Rockets.

Antetokounmpo had 41 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks as he became Milwaukee's all-time leader in the latter category, surpassing Alton Lister (804).

The defending NBA champions halted Houston's seven-game winning streak behind a monster performance from their star man.

Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis weighed in with 21 points apiece for the Bucks, who improved to 17-10 this season.

Asked afterwards about his new landmark achievement, Antetokounmpo said in a news conference: "It's big-time. Great compliment to my career. But I've gotta keep getting better, gotta keep defending better.

"I feel like sometimes I'm a step behind. I've gotta be there early for my team-mates, gotta make sure they know that I'm behind them and I'm ready to help them in any scenario.

"But it's great. It's great to have something like that in my career, but I gotta keep on moving forward, keep on getting better, keep on helping my team-mates win games."

His showing against Houston represented a major gear shift following a lacklustre display in the midweek defeat to the Miami Heat, in which Antetokounmpo managed just 15 points and six rebounds. Only once this season has he ended a game with fewer points.

He is averaging 27.6 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, with his shooting accuracy from the field dipping slightly from 56.9 per cent last term to 53.4 per cent, his lowest since the 2017-18 campaign.

Antetokounmpo seems to have a firm grip on how he can take steps forward and enacted his plan against Houston.

"I just tried to be aggressive, tried to get downhill," he said. "In the last game I wasn't as aggressive as I wanted. I wanted to be aggressive, the team wanted me to be aggressive and it kind of worked out in our favour tonight."

The 27-year-old Greek star was the Finals MVP last season and will have aspirations to take the Bucks deep into the play-offs again this time.

He spoke after this latest tussle of his admiration for the Rockets, who rebounded from a 15-game losing streak to put seven consecutive wins together before this setback.

"They're playing great. We knew coming in today they're going to play extremely hard against us and try to prove themselves," said Antetokounmpo.

"They don't have a big star, a superstar that takes all the possessions. They have to play together, they have to shoot the ball real well, they have to put themselves in position to be successful. They defend really well and if they keep playing like this they're going to keep getting better each year."

The Bucks have had five 40/15/5 games since the three-point era (1980) – Antetokounmpo has all five.

Giannis Antetokounmpo flexed his muscles with 41 points and 17 rebounds as defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Houston Rockets 123-114 in the NBA.

The Bucks snapped Houston's seven-game winning streak behind a monster performance from Finals MVP Antetokounmpo on Friday.

Antetokounmpo also had five assists, three steals and two blocks as he became Milwaukee's all-time blocks leader, surpassing Alton Lister (804).

The Bucks have had five 40/15/5 games since the three-point era (1980) – Antetokounmpo has all five.

Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis had 21 points apiece for the Bucks, who improved to 17-10 this season.

Christian Wood (21 points and 13 rebounds) had a double-double, but it was not enough for the Rockets (8-17), while Garrison Matthews (23 points) and Armoni Brooks (21 points) also impressed.

Houston had been 6-0 with Matthews in the starting line-up but his bid to join Chris Paul (first 15) and Jason Terry (first nine) as the only players in the last 30 years to have the Rockets win their first seven starts with the team fell short.

 

Durant grounds Hawks, LeBron leads Lakers

Kevin Durant led the way again for the Brooklyn Nets, who outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 113-105. Durant scored 31 points. James Harden added 20 points and 11 assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets. Trae Young had 31 points and 10 assists for the Hawks. He joined Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan as the only players with at least 25 points and 10 assists in five consecutive games since the NBA merger in 1977.

With Anthony Davis (knee soreness) absent, LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-95 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder. James was 13-of-20 shooting for 33 points. In 15 games this season, James has scored 30 or more points in seven of them.

 

Burks has game to forget

The New York Knicks opted for Alec Burks over star recruit Kemba Walker in their rotation, but he endured a horror outing in the 90-87 defeat at the Toronto Raptors. Burks missed all seven of his shots from the floor, finishing with just a point in 37 minutes.

The Boston Celtics went down 111-90 to the high-flying Phoenix Suns as Marcus Smart went one-of-13 from the floor – missing all five of his three-point attempts – in a four-point performance.

Nikola Jokic showed why he is the reigning NBA MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to a 120-114 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jokic posted back-to-back triple-doubles as the Nuggets outlasted the Pelicans in NBA action on Wednesday.

After putting up a triple-double on Monday, Jokic was at it again midweek with a season-high 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Jokic scored 11 of his points in OT to help the Nuggets take down the Pelicans – the Serb star posting his ninth career 30-point triple-double, the most in NBA history by a center not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Overall, it is Jokic's 61st career triple-double, one behind Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden, who ranks seventh all-time.

 

Red-hot Rockets win again

The Houston Rockets capitalised on Kevin Durant's absence in a 114-104 win over the shorthanded and Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets. Durant was rested and the Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games. According to Stats Perform, the Rockets are the first NBA/NBA/NHL team to have a losing streak of 15-plus games and then a winning streak of at least seven games later that same season (at any point) since the Louisville Colonels in 1895.

Joel Embiid was the source of inspiration again for the Philadelphia 76ers, who prevailed 110-106 against the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid had 32 points to lead the 76ers. It is the ninth time in Embiid's career he has tallied at least 75 points and 20 rebounds in a two-game span. The only other 76ers to do so at least nine times are Hall of Famers Chamberlain and Charles Barkley.

The NBA-leading Golden State Warriors were too good for Western Conference rivals the Portland Trail Blazers 104-94.

 

Giannis struggles as champs fall

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-104 at the Miami Heat after superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with just 15 points on four-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes.

Joel Embiid produced a monster double-double to lift the Philadelphia 76ers past the Charlotte Hornets 127-124 in overtime.

Embiid carried the 76ers (13-11) to victory away to the Hornets on Monday, posting a season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Last season's MVP runner-up, Embiid – scorer of six of Philadelphia's eight points in OT – was 15-of-20 shooting as he recorded his 10th career 40-point, 15-rebound game for the 76ers – only Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (30) has more in franchise history.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who claimed back-to-back victories while extending their winning streak against the Hornets to 15 games, dating back to 2017.

Kelly Oubre Jr.'s 35 points, which included six three-pointers, was not enough for the Hornets (14-12).

 

Curry up to his old tricks

Stephen Curry nailed a stunning half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter in the Golden State Warriors' 126-95 rout of the lowly Orlando Magic. Curry finished with 31 points and eight assists, while Andrew Wiggins (28 points) nailed a career-high eight three-pointers.

Birthday boy Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 and 12 rebounds to inspire defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-104 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee won for the 10th time in 11 games on Antetokounmpo's 27th birthday.

Despite a triple-double from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (17 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists), the Denver Nuggets were beaten 109-97 by the high-flying Chicago Bulls.

 

Portland's skid continues

The Portland Trail Blazers tasted defeat for the third consecutive game after going down 102-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers. The shorthanded Blazers – playing without All-Star Damian Lillard – have lost six of their last seven games and have the worst defence this season.

After snapping the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record winning streak, the high-flying Golden State Warriors crashed back down to earth in a shock 112-107 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

In the second of back-to-back games, having halted Phoenix's memorable 18-game run, the league-leading Warriors (19-4) were unable to rally past the Spurs on home court in the NBA on Saturday.

The Spurs (8-13) used an 8-1 run to close out the game for their fourth consecutive victory, fuelled by Dejounte Murray's 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Stephen Curry scored 27 points for the Warriors, who had won 11 successive home games – tied for their longest home winning streak since they claimed 54 straight from January 2015 to March 2016.

 

 

Bulls battle past Nets

The Chicago Bulls went on a rampage at Barclays Center, where they overturned a double-digit deficit to trump the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets 111-107. Zach LaVine (31 points) and DeMar DeRozan (29 points) inspired the Bulls in the Eastern Conference blockbuster. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 28 points, while James Harden had 14 points and 14 assists.

Jayson Tatum (also 10 rebounds) and Dennis Schroder scored 31 points apiece to lead the Boston Celtics to a 145-117 blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers, who were without Damian Lillard.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic put up 32 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in just 27 minutes as the Denver Nuggets beat the slumping New York Knicks 113-99.

No Giannis Antetokounmpo? No worries for defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated the Miami Heat 124-102. Bobby Portis sparked the Bucks with 19 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He is the first Bucks player with a 15/15/2/2/2 game in under 30 minutes since 1984.

 

George unable to lift Clippers

Paul George finished with a double-double but it was a rough night for him and the Los Angeles Clippers following a 104-99 loss at the Sacramento Kings. George only made five of his shots from the floor, while turning the ball over five times on the road.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA clash with the Miami Heat due to right calf soreness on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo was absent for the second consecutive game after missing Thursday's loss to the Toronto Raptors because of the same problem.

The Finals MVP was a late withdrawal for the defending champions' 97-83 defeat against the Raptors, with Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer initially hopeful it was only a "short-term" issue.

On Saturday, Budenholzer said: "We'll just take it day by day. See how it goes."

Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant entering Saturday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

Before facing Eastern Conference rivals the Heat, the Bucks boasted a 14-9 record to be fifth – three and a half games behind the Nets.

The Phoenix Suns celebrated a franchise-record 18th consecutive win after taking down the lowly Detroit Pistons 114-103 in the NBA on Thursday.

Phoenix – who reached last season's NBA Finals – eclipsed the 17-game record set during the 2006-07 campaign, despite the absence of All-Star Devin Booker.

Leading scorer Booker sat out for the first time this season after suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday's win over the Golden State Warriors, however, the Suns were still too good for the Pistons.

The NBA-leading Suns – who improved to 19-3 – were fuelled by 19 points apiece from Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne, while Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 12 points and 12 assists.

Phoenix also celebrated back-to-back wins over Detroit for the first time since 2014.

Jerami Grant put up a game-high 34 points for the Pistons, who have lost eight straight games for their worst skid since 2017-18.

 

Grizzlies in historic humbling

The Memphis Grizzlies broke the record for the largest victory in NBA history after humiliating the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79. Memphis surpassed the 1991 Cleveland Cavaliers (68 points) for the largest winning margin thanks to their 73-point demolition. The Grizzlies were without star Ja Morant. According to Stats Perform, 152 is the most points in NBA history by a team missing a player who was leading the team in total points and assists entering the game.

 

DeMar DeRozan (34 points), Zach LaVine (27 points) and Nikola Vucevic (27 points) combined to lead the Chicago Bulls past the New York Knicks 119-115. Julius Randle's double-double of 30 points and 12 rebounds was not enough for the Knicks.

 

Milwaukee's streak over as Giannis sits out

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held out by the Milwaukee Bucks due to a calf problem. In his absence, the defending champions lost 97-93 at the Toronto Raptors as their eight-game winning run was halted. Milwaukee shot just 37.6 per cent from the field.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer remains hopeful the calf issue that kept Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Thursday's 97-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors is only a "short-term" issue.

Antetokounmpo was a surprise late withdrawal for the Bucks due to right calf soreness and the reigning NBA champions tasted defeat in his absence.

Milwaukee's eight-game winning streak was snapped by the Raptors, who were fuelled by Fred VanVleet's 29 points.

Following the warm-ups, the Bucks opted to bench NBA Finals MVP Antetokounmpo, with Pat Connaughton starting in his place.

"Hopefully it's something very short term," Budenholzer told reporters after the defeat. "A day or two and hopefully he'll be ready to go.

"We'll just see how the next 24-48 hours go."

Budenholzer added: "I think it's important but we're hopeful it's short term."

Antetokounmpo had scored 40 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists in Wednesday's 127-125 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Greek superstar Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry entering Thursday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

Championship-winning Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez has undergone surgery to address the back injury that has kept him out since the opening game of this season.

The Bucks revealed that the 33-year-old underwent back surgery on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Milwaukee declined to offer a timetable on his potential return to play, but said he will " updates on his rehabilitation progress will be provided as appropriate".

The Bucks' title defence has been impacted by the absence of several players early this season, including Lopez along with Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Khris Middleton (COVID-19) who have missed stretches of games. Milwaukee are currently 14-8.

"He's basically been making very, very slow but little progress from the beginning," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters before Thursday's game at Toronto. "We hoped rest and rehab and things like that would solve it and it hasn't."

"We're not going to put a timeline on it, but we're also not going to say he's not going to play this season. We feel good about the surgery today, and he'll begin his rehab and do everything he can to put himself in a position to play for us."

Lopez averaged 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for the Bucks in their title-winning 2020-21 season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took a "sneaky" route to the winning shot as the Milwaukee Bucks pinched a 127-125 win over the Charlotte Hornets – then expressed frustration at being denied a post-game jersey swap.

The Bucks superstar powered in for a late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining as the in-form Bucks (14-8) landed their eighth consecutive victory.

It capped a game that saw him rack up 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and the finesse Antetokounmpo showed from close range at the death reflected his mastery of the craft.

He said: "I knew in the position that I was, there were two different routes: throw a floater up or try to sneak it in. And when you try to sneak it in, you've got to put spin.

"If you just go normal, most likely you're going to get blocked. So you've got to be sneaky with it."

Antetokounmpo scored 40 or more points in a game for the third time this season, and he said of his late heroics: "You've got to take them. You've got to be in the situation and learn from them.

"If you play a long time you're going to be in this situation at least 100, 200, 300 times. Sometimes you're going to miss, sometimes you're going to make some shots.

"You've got to be able to have the guts and the edge to be able to be in the situation, because you only learn from them."

He made a beeline for LaMelo Ball's jersey at the end of the game. Antetokounmpo had admired the Hornets star throughout the game as the 20-year-old, in his second year with the Hornets, scored an NBA career-high 36 points.

But asked after the game about that moment, Antetokounmpo revealed the jersey was not in his possession for long.

"They took the jersey from me," Antetokounmpo said. "I think the NBA wanted the jersey back, somebody wanted the jersey back.

"It's okay, I'll get another one next time. I was excited for it too, he had a great game."

The game saw DeMarcus Cousins make his Bucks debut, having arrived as a free agent. The former All-Star played just under 15 minutes and scored seven points, in his season debut, having spent last year with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

"I was very excited for DeMarcus Cousins," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously he was trying to feel more comfortable out there. He hasn't played in a long time.

"I think it was kind of weird for him that people didn't double-team him. He was just basically playing one on one down there. He played good, and we're going to need him a lot moving forward.

"He's so big out there in the paint, and he's a threat out there when he's with us."

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 127-125 thanks to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo's monster double-double and late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining lifted the in-form Bucks (14-8) to their eighth consecutive victory midweek.

Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double performance at home to the Hornets.

The Bucks withstood LaMelo Ball, who posted 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds on the road for the Hornets (13-11).

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

Luka Doncic fuelled the Dallas Mavericks' 139-107 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. He put up 28 points and 14 assists in just 27 minutes. According to Stats Perform, Doncic is the first player to reach those numbers while playing 27 minutes or less since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1987.

Jae'Sean Tate's career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks helped the Houston Rockets rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-110. The Rockets are the first team in NBA history with four straight wins immediately after a 15-game losing streak, per Stats Perform. As for Tate, he joined Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets players to record 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

In the absence of wantaway All-Star Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to endure a topsy-turvy campaign following their 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting. Tobias Harris was four-of-11 shooting – missing all four of his three-point attempts – for only eight points.

Duncan Robinson had a game to forget as the shorthanded Miami Heat went down 111-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson went scoreless in 20 minutes on 0-of-seven shooting from the floor, having failed to make any of his six efforts from beyond the arc.

The Milwaukee Bucks looked out of sorts as they limped into November having lost three in a row with two of the defending champions' top scorers sidelined.

Thirty days later at the season's quarter-mark, they are healthier and look capable of repeating as champs as they enter December riding an impressive seven-game winning streak.

A mere 91 days after winning the franchise's first NBA title since 1971, Milwaukee raised its championship banner and then emphatically beat a Brooklyn Nets team expected to contend for this season's title by 23 points. In that convincing win, the starting five of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and Brook Lopez combined for 82 points.

That has still been the only game this season coach Mike Budenholzer has been able to use that starting five, as Holiday, Middleton and Lopez have all missed significant time.

With Lopez still sidelined since the season opener with a sore back, the Bucks signed veteran big man DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday to provide frontcourt depth.

A four-time All-Star, Cousins isn't the same player he was in 2015 and 2016 when he earned second-team all-NBA honours, but the 31-year-old should be able to step in and provide size off the bench.

Milwaukee got Holiday back in early November after he sat out one game with a right heel contusion and another five with a sprained left ankle, but by the time he returned Middleton was already out with COVID-19.

The Bucks finished up October with a 3-4 record and were 4-6 on November 7, scoring fewer than 100 points in exactly half of their 10 games – this after failing to reach triple digits in just four regular-season games all last season.

In 11 games since then, they've only dipped below the century mark once and their current win streak has coincided with the return of Middleton from his eight-game absence.

It should be noted, though, that a 12-11 Los Angeles Lakers team playing without LeBron James is the only team the Bucks beat in their last seven games currently holding a winning record and the collective .325 winning percentage by their opponents from November 17-30 was the worst in the league for any team's opponents in that time span.

With that said, they still have thoroughly annihilated some overmatched opponents, holding leads of 20, 29, 51, 24, 20 and 22 in their last six games and now stand within a half-game of the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead.

Antetokounmpo posted a plus-38 plus-minus rating in Milwaukee's 123-92 beatdown of the Orlando Magic last Monday, a game in which the Bucks had a 77-36 advantage at the half for the largest half-time lead in franchise history, while Holiday had a plus-37 rating – kicking off a historic stretch for the veteran point guard.

In the last four games, Holiday has compiled a plus-117 rating – the highest for any player over a single-season four-game stretch since Stats Perform began tracking plus-minus rating in 2002-03. In that time, only two other players have registered a rating of plus-115 or better and that was Stephen Curry with a plus-115 in his 2015-16 MVP season and Mike Conley with a plus-116 last season.

Holiday is averaging 19.8 points on 55.7 per cent shooting with a 61.5 eFG percentage in the last four contests following a three-game stretch in which he averaged 9.7 points on 30.6 per cent shooting with a 36.1 eFG percentage. In the four games since November 22, he's connecting on 69.2 per cent of 39 2-point tries and has made 8-of-9 jump shots from 10-15 feet.

Holiday still hasn't found his touch from the perimeter, shooting 25.5 per cent on 51 3-point attempts in the last nine games, but that hasn't been much of a deterrent for Milwaukee as the team is getting outside help from an unlikely source.

Bobby Portis has drained 19-of-32 shots from 3-point range (59.4 per cent) in the last six games, twice going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. This is after he made 13-of-40 3-point tries (32.5 per cent) in his first 10 contests, only making more than one 3-pointer in a game on two occasions.

Since his tear began on November 19, Portis and the Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball are the only players in the league with 100-plus points, 60-plus rebounds and 15-plus 3-pointers made – and Ball has played one more game and made the same number of 3-pointers on 19 more tries.

While Holiday and Portis have been putting up gaudy MVP-type number over the last week, the actual two-time league MVP continues to be his same outstanding self in the season's early going.

Antetokounmpo has recorded 12 double-doubles in 20 games played and has a pair of 40-point games – only Curry has more with four. He leads all players with 127 field goals made in the restricted area, but defences simply can’t converge on him because he's adept at kicking the ball out to a teammate to knock down a 3-ponter – his 73 assists on made 3s are the most in the NBA.

The trio of Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton together on the court has always been a boon for Milwaukee but lately it's been utterly dominant. The Bucks averaged a stellar 113.9 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton together on the court in their first 17 games before averaging 133.0 points per 100 possessions with that threesome in the last four.

No big surprise, with all the Bucks' opening-night starters back with the exception of Lopez, the offence has found its rhythm. Since its win streak begin on November 17, Milwaukee's starters are averaging a league-leading 84.9 points. The starters averaged 77.6 points in their first 14 games.

While Milwaukee's offence is rolling, the defence has keyed the team's turnaround – setting the tone from the get-go.

During their 2020-21 championship season, the Bucks jumped out on their opponents, leading by an average of 2.6 points after one quarter – the fourth-largest margin in the league. Through the first month of this season, though, they often found themselves trailing early.

Aside from leading the Nets by 12 points after 12 minutes in the opener with the starting five intact, the Bucks only had four other leads after one quarter in the first 15 games, recording a minus-0.9 scoring differential through one period in those contests. It's been a completely different story lately, as they’ve been putting away teams early, outscoring opponents by an average of 9.8 in the first quarter in the last six games.

The offence has been slightly better in the last six – averaging 31.8 first-quarter points after averaging 29.0 in the first 15 – but the biggest improvement has been on the defensive end.

Facing their opponents' starting five, Milwaukee is holding teams to 37.4 per cet shooting – including 32.8 per cent from beyond the arc – in the first quarter in the last six games after opponents shot 50.4 per cent from the field and 44.1 per cent from 3-point range in the first quarter in the first 15.

Overall since November 17, the Bucks lead the league in opponent field goal percentage at 39.1 and only the Warriors are allowing fewer points than Milwaukee’s 99.0 per game at 98.3. This comes after the Bucks allowed an average of 109.8 points on 45.1 per cent shooting in their first 14 games.

The Bucks have yet to lose this season with Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton in the lineup, and while they won't have the luxury of playing teams like the Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons every night, they will play each of those three teams again over the next four and a half weeks.

Beginning with the Hornets and running through a date with the Pistons on January 3, Milwaukee's opponents' winning percentage of .400 is the worst in the league. It's probably a lot to ask for the Bucks to continue to play at their current pace over this next stretch, but the opportunity is there for them to build a lead atop the Central come the new year.

The Golden State Warriors continue to set the pace in the NBA after Stephen Curry fuelled the league-leading franchise to a 105-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Curry put up a game-high 33 points and the red-hot Warriors celebrated their eighth consecutive victory on Sunday.

The two-time MVP also had six assists, six steals and five rebounds as the Warriors improved to 18-2 this season.

Golden State had 19 steals in total at Staples Center, where Paul George (30 points) and the Clippers shot just 40 per cent from the field.

The Warriors have held their opponents to under 50 per cent shooting in all 20 games this season – Golden State have the best defensive rating and opponent field goal percentage in 2021-22.

 

 

Lakers win grudge match

The Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the lowly Detroit Pistons 110-106 as the two teams renewed hostilities for the first time since LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart were ejected following a melee. James had struck Stewart in the face – drawing blood, sparking wild scenes as the Pistons big man repeatedly charged at the Lakers superstar on November 21. On Sunday, James scored 33 points and tallied nine assists to help the Lakers. Anthony Davis (24 points and 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (25 points and nine rebounds) also contributed in LA.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks eased past the Indiana Pacers 118-100 for their seventh successive victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a day out with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

 

Tatum overshadows Celtics triumph

The Boston Celtics left Canada with a 109-97 win against the Toronto Raptors, but it was a miserable outing for All-Star Jayson Tatum. While he had 10 assists and seven rebounds, Tatum finished with just eight points on two-of-16 shooting in a team-high 38 minutes. He also recorded four turnovers.

The Phoenix Suns are closing in on a franchise record after celebrating a 15th successive win with a 118-97 victory against the New York Knicks in the NBA.

Last season's Finals runners-up, the Suns are two victories away from equalling their all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games thanks to Friday's triumph – Phoenix won 17 straight games in 2006-07.

Devin Booker fuelled the red-hot Suns with 32 points at Madison Square Garden, Chris Paul (14 points and 10 assists) and Deandre Ayton (14 points and 13 rebounds) contributed double-doubles on the road.

Reigning Western Conference champions the Suns boast a 16-3 record this season, a mark only bettered by rivals the Golden State Warriors (17-2).

 

 

Warriors win again

The Warriors extended their winning streak to six games by topping the Portland Trail Blazers 118-103. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while the two-time MVP surpassed Scottie Pippen for 62nd place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Draymond Green put up 12 points and 12 assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost a wild game against the Sacramento Kings, outlasted 141-137 following triple overtime. Not even Russell Westbrook's triple-double (29 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) or LeBron James' 30 points and 11 assists could lift the Lakers in LA.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets 120-109 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 13 rebounds. By topping the depleted Nuggets, the Bucks made it six straight victories.

 

Jazz stunned in Salt Lake City

The lowly New Orleans Pelicans shocked the Utah Jazz 98-97 courtesy of Devonte' Graham's go-ahead three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining on the road.

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the struggling Detroit Pistons 107-96, but it was a rough outing for star Paul George, who was just five-for-19 shooting in a 12-point display. Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham, meanwhile, finished with 10 points having made only three of his 13 shots from the field.

Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed that watching tape of his struggles on the glass had provided the catalyst for his superb showing in the Milwaukee Bucks' win over the Orlando Magic.

Antetokounmpo collected 20 rebounds as the NBA champions claimed a 117-108 victory in Milwaukee, adding 32 points for good measure.

Mike Budenholzer's men have now won three in a row for the first time this season, with Antetokounmpo leading the way.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 seasons, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

"I watched a lot of clips and I was losing rebounds," said Antetokounmpo. 

"That frustrates me and I wanted to do a better job, using my body, being in the right spots.

"I know if I can get the rebounds, we can get on the offense; it's faster and I can get myself going that way."

 

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds, earning warm praise from Antetokounmpo.

"He creates space on the floor for everybody, not just me but for Khris [Middleton] and Jrue [Holiday], for Grayson [Allen]," said the 26-year-old.

"A lot of guys are worried about him, they know he's capable of making the open shot. He helps us find more driving lanes, he just makes the court bigger. 

"It's great that he's feeling good. When he's open, you pass him the ball and he's probably going to make it.

"We need him to keep playing like this, we need him to keep being aggressive, to keep leading – he's one of the leaders in this team – we need his energy, and we need everything he's doing moving forward."

With the Bucks now 9-8 for the season, Antetokounmpo hopes this winning streak can continue.

"It feels good, but we've got to stay humble and keep getting better," he added.

"Khris is going to keep getting more involved and getting into his spots, Jrue is going to do the same. Bobby is playing great, competing.

"We're getting better and that ends up with wins, but we've got to keep going and get more wins."

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