Bucks use strong start, finish to beat Clippers 112-101 (VIDEO)

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks can beat any team in the NBA when they keep the ball moving, even a star-studded playoff contender like the Los Angeles Clippers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and eight assists, and the Bucks finished strong after nearly squandering an early 23-point lead in in a 112-101 victory over the turnover-prone Clippers on Friday night.

Antetokounmpo was one of three Bucks with at least eight assists. Milwaukee tried to beat the Clippers down the floor in transition and made the extra pass in halfcourt sets in accumulating 35 assists on 44 baskets.

“When the ball is moving like that and you’ve got that many assists, it’s some good shots,” said center Greg Monroe, who also had 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

Crisp passing, opportunistic defense and the Clippers’ sloppy play allowed the Bucks to persevere in spite of watching their early edge dwindle to 77-74 late in the third quarter following four 3s in the period by Chris Paul. He finished with 21 points, five assists and four turnovers.

The Bucks reasserted control with a 15-2 run for a 92-76 lead with about 9 minutes left, capped by Antetokounmpo’s driving dunk past Blake Griffin, and Jason Terry‘s open 3 from the corner.

Milwaukee also used a 20-2 run over the final 4:33 of the first quarter to open a 19-point lead at halftime.

Fighting to stay in the playoff picture, the Bucks played with a sense of urgency that was missing in a lackluster home loss to Denver on Wednesday night. Guard Malcolm Brogdon said coach Jason Kidd drove home the point in part by making the team run a lot in practice on Thursday.

“I thought their intent, their energy, their focus and the carry-over to tonight was very good,” Kidd said.

Mistakes crippled the Clippers throughout the night. Los Angeles had a season-high 23 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.

“We gave a young team confidence by turning it over,” coach Doc Rivers said.

THIRD WATCH

The Clippers at least played well in the third quarter, with Paul nearly singlehandedly bringing his team all the way back from the early hole. The Clippers star hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the period.

The Bucks controlled the rest of the game, outhustling the Clippers for rebounds and shots in the lane.

“The way we just started the game and they jumped on us, that hurt us,” Rivers said.

Paul and Griffin each had 21 points to lead the Clippers, while Jordan finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

PAUL’S THUMB

A sore left thumb forced Paul to the bench briefly after his fourth 3 of the third quarter to draw his team within three. The Bucks went on their late run with Paul out of the lineup.

Paul returned on Feb. 24 after missing 14 games with a torn ligament in the left thumb.

“I knew it was going to hurt one of these days whenever I got hit in it. So I got hit in it good but I’m cool. No, I wasn’t worried,” Paul said.

STAT LINES

The Clippers lost despite shooting 56 percent from the field. The Bucks had 11 steals and shot 55 percent while committing 10 turnovers, four less than their season average.

“I thought deflections and steals were high, but the passing was contagious,” Kidd said.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Rivers, who had a decorated college playing career at Marquette, spoke to the Golden Eagles players and coach Steve Wojciechowski earlier Friday at Marquette’s practice court about eight blocks from the Bradley Center. … The Clippers fell to 0-9 on the road when trailing at the half.

Bucks: G/F Khris Middleton returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the Bucks’ last game on Wednesday. Middleton has been back a month after starting the season rehabbing from a torn hamstring. He finished with 19 points and nine assists in 32 minutes. … F Michael Beasley is off crutches and riding a stationary bike four days after leaving a loss at Cleveland with a hyperextended left knee. He was due to miss the current three-game homestand, and Kidd said that Beasley would be reevaluated as planned later this weekend.

UP NEXT

Clippers: At Chicago on Saturday night.

Bucks: Host Toronto on Saturday night.

Blazers beat Lakers 97-81, tie Denver for final spot in West

Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-81 on Sunday night to pull even with Denver in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Both the Blazers and Nuggets are 35-38 with nine games left in the regular season. They play each other Tuesday in Portland.

Denver lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier Sunday night.

Portland took control by outscoring the Lakers 37-24 in the third quarter and led by as many as 26 points. Los Angeles shot 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 61-42.

Allen Crabbe added 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, and Noah Vonleh grabbed 14 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points, and reserve Tyler Ennis scored 14.

Portland led 40-32 at the break after an unsightly half in which the teams took turns struggling from the field. At halftime, both were shooting exactly 32.6 percent.

The Lakers won their previous game against the Timberwolves but have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Shot 62.4 percent against Minnesota on Saturday, their best mark since hitting 64.1 percent on March 12, 2003. Coming into Sunday, they had shot 50.6 percent over their last five games.

Lakers: Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who started the previous 19 games and averaged 12.1 points on 48.4 percent shooting, did not play because of right patellar tendinitis. Said coach Luke Walton: “He was out there warming up and it’s not right.” Corey Brewer got his first start for the Lakers.

 

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.