MIAMI: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and Damian Lillard added 32 as the Milwaukee Bucks beat Miami 131-124 on Tuesday to reach the knockout rounds of the NBA In-Season Tournament.
On the final night of group-stage play in the NBA’s inaugural version of a World Cup, the Bucks won the East Group B crown at 4-0, taking the top Eastern Conference seed in the fight to reach next month’s semifinals in Las Vegas.
“We completed the task,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said. “To get to Vegas now, we’ve got to do a little bit more.
“We want it. We’re hungry for it. It’s exciting times for us. We want to go to Vegas so we’re happy.”
The quarterfinals will find Boston at Indiana and New Orleans at Sacramento on Monday, with New York at Milwaukee and Phoenix at the Los Angeles Lakers next Tuesday.
Boston routed Chicago 124-97 to win East Group C and advance while New York, second behind Milwaukee in Group B, beat Charlotte 115-91 and advanced as a wildcard based on superior point differential over Cleveland 42-29.
Sacramento edged Golden State 124-123 to win West Group C, rallying from 24 points down in the second quarter to advance.
The Warriors knew they had to win by 12 points to win the group on a point differential tiebreaker and took a 72-55 half-time lead before the Kings, led by 29 points from De’Aaron Fox, rallied late to trim the margin then swipe the triumph.
“We still wanted to win the game, it counts for the regular season, but we knew what the number was,” Fox said.
Phoenix took a West wildcard spot when Minnesota beat Oklahoma City 106-103 while New Orleans won West Group B when the Dallas Mavericks downed visiting Houston 121-115.
At Miami, the Bucks opened a 15-2 lead, Miami answered with a 16-4 run, then Milwaukee closed the first quarter on a 12-4 spurt for a 31-22 lead.
“We started out great, but it’s hard,” Middleton said.
“You’re just not going to knock a team down in the first five minutes. They did a great job coming back. We did a great job keeping our composure and finding a way to close this thing out.”
Miami, lacking Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro due to ankle sprains, led 97-93 after three quarters.
Middleton, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, hit back-to-back jumpers for a four-point lead and dunks by Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo settled matters.
“Thankfully I was able to hit a couple shots,” Middleton said.
“I’m just happy we won a tough game.”
Antetokounmpo made 11-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the free-throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds with five assists while Lillard, 9-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the line, added nine assists.
At New York, Julius Randle scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds while Immanuel Quickley had 23 points off the bench to spark the Knicks.
Boston needed a lopsided win to advance and got it as Jaylen Brown scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed off six assists to lead the hosts over Chicago.
Jayson Tatum added 21 points and Al Horford had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Celtics.
Golden State’s Chris Paul went out in the first quarter with lower left leg soreness and Gary Payton II went down with a right calf injury in the third quarter at Sacramento, which had lost two prior meetings with the Warriors this season.
Golden State’s Draymond Green, back from a five-game ban for putting Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert in a headlock, received a technical foul in the fourth quarter for arguing referee calls.
Dallas star Luka Doncic dominated Houston with 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while Kyrie Irving added 27 points for the Mavs, keeping the Rockets winless on the road this season.
Western Conference overall season leader Minnesota (13-4) hung on to top spot by edging visiting Oklahoma City (11-6).
Anthony Edwards, who left the game with a bruised right hip, led the Timberwolves with 21 points while Gobert added 17 points and 16 rebounds.
But Phoenix took the West wildcard on point differential 34-0 over Minnesota.