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Giannis pours in 50 in Bucks victory, Celtics win ninth straight

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Giannis Antetokounmpo led a potent Milwaukee attack, scoring a season-high 50 points on Tuesday as the Bucks snapped a modest two-game losing skid with a 128-119 win over the Indiana Pacers.

The teams went back and forth in the third quarter before the Bucks outscored the Pacers 29-24 in the fourth for the win and a four-game sweep of the season series.

Antetokounmpo grabbed 14 rebounds and had 17-of-21 shooting while Khris Middleton contributed 19 points and eight assists for Milwaukee, who shot 50 percent from the field for the fifth time in the last seven games.

Antetokounmpo set a career high with his seventh 40-point game of the season and scored 50 for the first time since the title-clinching contest in the NBA Finals last season against Phoenix, which gave the Bucks their first championship in 50 years.

“Obviously, it’s a nice feeling to have 50, you’ll always remember it, but I care about the win. I want to win games,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have another one on Thursday. We’ll try to finish and go to the All-Star break on a good note.”

Jrue Holiday notched 14 points and eight assists and reserve Lindell Wiggington had a career-high 12 points in the win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts to a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Indiana Pacers. PHOTO: AFP

Buddy Hield paced Indiana with 36 points and hit eight of 12 shots from behind three point range. Tyrese Haliburton recorded 17 points and eight assists. Goga Bitadze chipped in 12 points, and Jalen Smith added 11.

Milwaukee jumped out to an early seven-point lead thanks to 12 points from Antetokounmpo and 56.5 per cent shooting from the field in the first quarter. Eighteen of their first 34 points came inside the paint.

The Bucks attacked the basket throughout the first half, hitting 28 of 46 shots (60.9 per cent).

Elsewhere, Jaylen Brown had 29 points and eight rebounds while Jayson Tatum added 28 points and 12 rebounds as the Boston Celtics clobbered the Philadelphia 76ers 135-87 to earn their ninth consecutive victory.

Aaron Nesmith tallied 18 points, Grant Williams scored 12 and Derrick White had 11 for the red-hot Celtics, who made 25 of 45 shots from three-point range.

“We were just trying to keep our streak going,” said Brown. “Tonight was fun.”

“We play on both sides of the ball on this team,” he added. “We score and we lock up on defense. We just want to keep the energy going.” The Sixers played for the third consecutive game without James Harden, who was acquired last Thursday from the Brooklyn Nets for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first round draft picks.

Harden will be sidelined through the All-Star break with a sore hamstring.

Paul Millsap made his Sixers debut to open the fourth quarter, and he scored nine points in nine minutes.

Joel Embiid’s streak of scoring at least 25 points ended after 23 consecutive games. He led the Sixers with 19 points and nine rebounds. With the game out of hand, the Philadelphia coaching staff decided to sit Embiid for the entire fourth quarter.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart was helped off the court with 5:15 remaining in the second quarter due to an apparent ankle injury. Smart came back to shoot the free throws before leaving again for good.

“He means a lot,” Brown said of Smart. “He has been doing a great job all year. I am going to check on him because we need him in the second half of the season.”