Antetokounmpo, Lopez to the fore as Bucks bounce back against Raptors

Antetokounmpo, Lopez to the fore as Bucks bounce back against Raptors
Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo is fouled as he drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors' Gary Trent Jr. (33), O.G. Anunoby (3), Jakob Poeltl (19) and Fred VanVleet during the second half of an NBA game in Milwaukee. (AP)
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Updated 20 March 2023

Antetokounmpo, Lopez to the fore as Bucks bounce back against Raptors

Antetokounmpo, Lopez to the fore as Bucks bounce back against Raptors
  • Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from Friday’s agonizing loss to Dallas to see off Orlando 111-105

LOS ANGELES:  Giannis Antetokounmpo bagged a triple-double and Brook Lopez delivered a huge fourth quarter as the Milwaukee Bucks returned to winning ways with a 118-111 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

The Eastern Conference leaders, jolted by a lopsided loss to Indiana on Thursday, returned to form with a dogged come-from-behind win over the Raptors at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.

Toronto led by eight near the end of the third quarter, but were overpowered down the stretch with Lopez scoring 17 of his 26 points in the final period to drag Milwaukee over the line.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as Milwaukee improved to 51-20 at the top of the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games clear of the in-form Philadelphia 76ers.

Fred VanVleet led Toronto’s scorers with 23 points.

In other games on Sunday, Austin Reaves scored a career-high 35 points as the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from Friday’s agonizing loss to Dallas to see off Orlando 111-105.

The Lakers, battling to remain in the hunt for a postseason berth in the Western Conference, were left shellshocked after a buzzer-beating loss to the Mavs on Friday.

It looked as if history might repeat itself on Sunday as the Magic closed to 101-101 with 2 minutes and 39 seconds remaining.

But Reaves took over by rattling in his team’s final 10 points to secure a win which lifted the Lakers into the play-in positions.

“It’s a good win,” Reaves said afterward. “Every win from now is crucial, and every game from now is crucial.

“It’s all about how we approach the game — if we’re locked in to what we need to do I feel like we’ve got the firepower to be one of the best teams in the league.”

In Portland, the Trail Blazers’ playoff push suffered a blow with a 117-102 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers never trailed throughout, with Paul George finishing with 29 points and Kawhi Leonard with 24 points.

The loss leaves Portland in 13th place in the Western Conference with a 31-40 record, three spots outside the play-in places.

Elsewhere Sunday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 40 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder staged a second-half rally to eclipse Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 12-of-24 from the field while draining 16-of-19 free throws as Oklahoma City overturned a 15-point first-half deficit to complete a 124-120 victory.

The Thunder trailed by 10 points early in the fourth quarter but outscored Phoenix 34-24 in the final frame — with Gilgeous-Alexander contributing 10 points — to grab victory.

The win boosts Oklahoma City’s playoff hopes, with the Thunder improving to 35-36 in the Western Conference for eighth place.

Only a handful of games separate a swath of teams jostling for the postseason in the West, where Phoenix remain in fourth place with a 38-33 record.

Phoenix, meanwhile, were sparked by 46 points from Booker but saw only three other players break into double figures after a steely OKC defensive display in the second half.

“It was a total team effort,” Gilgeous-Alexander said afterward. “There was some adversity throughout the game, but we just kept pushing and stuck to our gameplan and came up with the ‘W’.”

Also, Nikola Jokic’s 28th triple-double of the season helped the Denver Nuggets take a 108-102 win on the road against the Brooklyn Nets.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 22 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists as the Western Conference leaders improved to 48-24. The Nuggets have already assured themselves of a postseason berth and are now aiming to lock down top seed in the final three weeks of the regular season.

Michael Porter Jr. led the Denver scorers with 28 points, while Jamal Murray added 25.

In San Antonio, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell both finished with 29 points as the Spurs fought back from 24 points down to stun the visiting Atlanta Hawks 126-118.

The Hawks looked to be romping to a comfortable road win after piling on 83 first-half points to lead by 22 at half time.

But the Spurs — already eliminated from postseason contention — flipped the script after the break, outscoring Atlanta 39-20 in the third before a 26-15 fourth quarter.