Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points and 17 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks made the right plays down the stretch to avenge an earlier loss to the Boston Celtics with a 128-123 victory on Thursday.
Alone by a comfortable margin atop the Eastern Conference, the Bucks came out quickly in the first quarter by opening a double-digit lead five minutes in. They then held on at the end to improve to an NBA best 37-6 on the season.
Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 19 points and Brook Lopez added 16 as the Bucks extended their winning streak to five games, while winning for the 10th time in their last 11 contests.
The Bucks went on a run late in the third to take a 19-point lead into the fourth quarter.
“We were able to get defensive stops and that helped and then we pushed the pace a little,” said the Bucks’ Khris Middleton.
Kemba Walker led Boston by scoring 40 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Marcus Smart added 24 as the Celtics lost for the fifth time in their last seven games.
“He was awfully special tonight,” said coach Brad Stevens of Walker as the Celtics tried to find something positive in the loss.
The Celtics are considered one of the few teams that have the talent to topple the Bucks in their march to the top seed in the playoffs.
One of the Bucks’ few defeats came on October 30 when they fell 116-105 at Boston in a game the Bucks led by 19 in the first half. It was the only meeting between the teams so far this season.
But this was a different Bucks team and a more rested group as the Celtics were playing the second game of a back-to-back stint.
The Celtics managed to find their rhythm in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to six at 87-81 before the Bucks closed the period on a run and grabbed a 106-87 lead heading to the final quarter.
The Celtics used a late 12-2 run to get within four points in the final minute but that was as close as they got.
“We kept fighting,” said Smart. “We knew it was going to be tough. We just continued to fight and fight and gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
Elsewhere, Brandon Ingram outgunned Donovan Mitchell en route to a career-high 49 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped the Utah Jazz’s 10-game winning streak with a 138-132 overtime victory.
The Jazz rebounded from a five-point deficit halfway through the overtime to outscore the Pelicans 16-10 as Ingram drained five free throws in the extra session.
Former Jazz centre Derrick Favors added 21 points and 11 rebounds as New Orleans won for the 10th time in 14 games.
E’Twaun Moore scored 16 points, including a go-ahead layup in overtime, Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 12 and Frank Jackson had 10.
Mitchell tied his career-high with 46 points, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26, and Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.