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Antetokounmpo, Parker lead Bucks to 125-107 win over Pacers

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MILWAUKEE (AP) Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker each had 27 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Indiana Pacers 125-107 on Thursday night.

Paul George scored 23 points, reserve C.J. Miles added 19, Jeff Teague had 16 and Myles Turner 15, but it wasn’t enough as the Pacers slipped to 0-3 on the road.

When Parker hit from in close and then from beyond the arc to open the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bucks would coast to their third win of the season.

Indiana had other ideas and closed with a flurry led by George who hit a 3-pointer with 9:28 to go, cutting the deficit to 95-82. When Turner made two free throws and Thaddeus Young hit a basket, the Bucks’ lead was nine.

After a steal by Monta Ellis and another basket by George, the Pacers trailed by seven with 4:11 to play, but that was as close as they got. Tony Snell hit a 3-pointer, Miles Plumlee dunked and Antetokounmpo scored in traffic to push the lead to 14 points and the Bucks regained control of the game.

Parker sparked the Bucks with nine points as Milwaukee opened the third quarter with some energy, attacked the boards on both ends and pulled away to a 74-61 lead. Parker hit a 3, two driving dunks and a putback before George stopped the surge with a wide-open 3-pointer with 7:03 left in the quarter. But the Bucks were off and running again, building the lead to as many as 17.

Malcom Brogdon, the Bucks’ second-round draft pick from Virginia, scored 12 points, including two free throws that pushed the margin to 90-73 with seconds left in the third.

Snell, who the Bucks acquired from the Chicago Bulls for Michael Carter-Williams, hit a 3 at the buzzer and gave Milwaukee a 63-57 lead at the half.

TIP-INS

Pacers: G Rodney Stuckey missed his third consecutive game with a right hamstring strain. . The Pacers took three of four from the Bucks last season. Indiana’s 37-point win on Nov. 21 was the Pacers’ largest win and Milwaukee’s largest loss in 2015-16.

Bucks: Coming into Thursday’s game, Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging over 23 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks per game. . F Steve Novak has yet to play in a game.

KIDD’S BIG ASSIST

Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd donated more than $1 million for a men’s basketball scholarship with his former University of California program. The second overall draft pick in 1994 and a 10-time NBA All-Star, Kidd led the Golden Bears to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances during his two seasons as a player. He opted to stay home in the Bay Area to play his college basketball in Berkeley.

Asked if it meant the recipient of the scholarship had to resemble his tenacious style, Kidd chuckled. “No, no, no, no, it doesn’t,” he said. “The criteria is just to help the next student-athlete, doesn’t have to be able to pass or shoot, just be able to do the right thing on and off the floor.”

UP NEXT

Pacers: On Saturday, they look for payback against the Bulls who beat them 118-101 on Oct. 29 in Chicago.

Bucks: On Saturday, they host the Sacramento Kings who took the two-game series last season.

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.