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Antetokounmpo keeps Bucks on song in NBA

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points and had a game-deciding block of Joel Embiid in the final seconds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 118-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in a match-up of two of the NBA Eastern Conference’s top teams.

Khris Middleton added 22 points and Jrue Holiday had 18 for the Bucks, who pulled within a half-game of idle Miami for first place in the East.

James Harden had 32 points and nine rebounds for the 76ers, and Embiid recovered from a slow start and finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Philadelphia dropped 1-1/2 games behind the Heat in the conference.

Antetokounmpo added 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks for the defending NBA champion Bucks.

He made the first of two free throws to put the Bucks up 118-116 with 13.2 seconds to play.

After another 76ers timeout, Harden’s step-back 3 was long.

Embiid grabbed the rebound and looked primed to tie it with an easy lay-up, but Antetokounmpo swatted it away with 1.6 seconds left.

The game pitted a pair of teams that have their eyes on the NBA title.

The Bucks broke a long title drought last season, earning the franchise’s second title after winning their first in 1971.

They have been one of the NBA’s best teams since the All-Star break, going 11-4 as it gears up for another post-season run.

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said he doesn’t hear the Bucks enough when NBA title contenders are mentioned.

“I hear everybody but Milwaukee,” Rivers said. “They didn’t luck into winning.”

Kevin Durant scored 41 points as the Brooklyn Nets rallied past the Detroit Pistons 130-123.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points in his second home appearance since New York exempted athletes from a private employer mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations last week.

Andre Drummond had 14 points and 13 rebounds as Brooklyn overcame a double-digit deficit in the second quarter.

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Chicago Bulls pull away for a 107-94 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Nikola Vucevic scored 27 points for Chicago, who are trying to stay in the top six in the Eastern Conference and avoid the play-in round of the post-season.

The Bulls (44-32) took a half-game lead over Toronto (43-32) for fifth place in the East, and they lead seventh-place Cleveland (42-33) by 1-1/2 games.

Luka Doncic scored 34 points in a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks routed the Los Angeles Lakers 128-110 who were missing LeBron James because of an ankle issue.

In the final game, Paul George scored 34 points in his return after missing three months as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat the Utah Jazz 121-115.

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