The Philadelphia 76ers supporters may have jeered Doc Rivers, but the Milwaukee Bucks coach took the hostile reception in his stride as his new team won big on Sunday.

Rivers was dismissed by the Sixers eight months ago following a disappointing end to a season in which Joel Embiid was named the NBA's MVP.

Yet Rivers came out smiling after his return to Philadelphia on Sunday, with the Bucks having run out 119-98 victors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (30) and Damian Lillard (24) combined for 54 points as the Bucks followed up their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a statement victory over a rival in the East.

And while Rivers received a frosty reception, he was all smiles after the game.

"I didn't even hear it, to be honest. That means I was back at home," he quipped.

"It was awesome. Really. I had three good years here, not talking about basketball, just in life. I enjoyed my stay here and made friends for life here.

"The fans were good, too. There were a couple of hilarious comments. One guy told me that Larry David was looking for me to golf. I thought that was pretty funny."

Reflecting on his tenure in charge of the Sixers, Rivers added: "I'm happy with it overall, I just wish we could've gone further.

"I wish we could have had a chance to have Joel healthy in the playoffs.

"But overall, Joel became an MVP, and we established this team as a championship contender. That wasn't said the year before.

"You think about it, we had the James Harden trade, the Ben [Simmons] stuff. Some was under my control, some was out of my control, but overall, for me, if you don't win a title, you're never exactly happy. That's why we all do this."

The Bucks are 5-7 under Rivers, who replaced Adrian Griffin in January. Antetokounmpo, though, is relishing the challenge under his new coach.

"I love him," Antetokounmpo said. "It's been incredible playing for him. He just explains to me, what he wants from me.

"You respect him because he's been 25 years in the league. You've got to respect what he's done in the league, won a championship, won a lot of games, but when he comes in the locker room, he keeps it simple."

The Bucks are third in the East, four wins ahead of the 76ers with a 37-21 record.

"I thought we were consistent," Lillard said. "We got into the paint, we were willing to make the extra pass to find the open guy and we got quality looks.

"To play good offense you find quality shots and have a lot of mix. I thought that’s what we did."

Rivers added: "We had been putting such an emphasis on defense.

"The last few games we’ve been terrific. When you have Giannis on your team, if you can get stops and get him in transition, Giannis in transition is a problem for everybody."

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks held off the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves 112-107 on Friday in a matchup of NBA heavyweights.

Damian Lillard had 21 points, 10 assists and a season-high nine rebounds and Malik Beasley scored all 14 of his points in the third quarter as the Bucks improved to 4-10 under new coach Doc Rivers.

Anthony Edwards scored 28 points and hit three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to draw the Wolves within 110-107 with 31 seconds left, but Lillard’s long jumper 22 seconds later sealed the win.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points with 14 rebounds and Rudy Gobert added 12 points and 19 boards for Minnesota, which had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Butler among 4 ejected in Heat’s win

Jimmy Butler was one of four players ejected after a fourth-quarter scuffle and the Miami Heat held off the New Orleans Pelicans, 106-95.

Butler had 23 points and nine rebounds and Bam Adebayo added 24 points for Miami, which snapped New Orleans’ four-game winning streak and made it seven consecutive wins over the Pelicans.

Also ejected for the melee were Heat reserve Thomas Bryant and Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall of the Pelicans.

Herb Jones scored 19 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 with 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which couldn’t overcome 37.5 percent shooting, including 7 of 32 from 3-point range.

Maxey leads 76ers over Cavaliers

Tyrese Maxey scored 24 points and Cam Payne added 16 off the bench to propel the Philadelphia 76ers to a 104-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Maxey came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of the Sixers’ final 20 points and assisted on a 3-pointer by Buddy Hield that put Philadelphia up by eight in the final minute.

Maxey was the only Sixer to make more than one basket in the fourth quarter and also added four rebounds and two assists.

Jarrett Allen had 24 points and Darius Garland added 20 and nine assists, but Cleveland had a six-game road winning streak stopped while losing for the third time in four games overall.

Damian Lillard was honoured to achieve a feat only previously accomplished by Michael Jordan on the NBA's All-Star weekend. 

Lillard saw off competition from the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns and the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young to win the 3-point contest on Saturday, then he dazzled again one day later.

The Milwaukee Bucks guard was named All-Star Game MVP after putting up 39 points as the Eastern Conference All-Stars recorded a 211-186 win over their Western Conference counterparts. 

Chicago Bulls legend Jordan is the only previous player to complete such a double, having taken the 1988 dunk contest before winning the first of his three All-Star MVP trophies.

For Lillard, who was appearing in his eighth All-Star Game but his first as a starter, following in Jordan's footsteps made it all the more memorable. 

"Anytime you're mentioned in the same category as Mike, it's an honour, it's a major accomplishment, even if it's All-Star weekend," Lillard said during his post-game news conference. 

"Because if it was that simple, more people would have done it. I'm a vet in the game at this point. Why not go and try to get an MVP? I've been here enough."

However, a perceived lack of competitiveness in Sunday's All-Star Game – the highest-scoring in history – led to criticism from some quarters. 

The league's all-time leading scorer LeBron James said the All-Star Game "is something we need to figure out", with players unwilling to risk injury in the mid-season exhibition. 

Asked for his views on that debate, Lillard said: "I think it could be more competitive, 200 is a lot to be scored. It shows we didn't go out there and compete like I guess you would want us to. 

"But I think that's just what it is. Guys are talented, they make a lot of shots. We hit a lot of 3s, and that was it."

Lillard joined the Bucks in a blockbuster trader from the Portland Trail Blazers ahead of the season, but his first campaign in Milwaukee has been a turbulent one. 

The Bucks fired coach Adrian Griffin last month, bringing in Doc Rivers after a short interim stint for Joe Prunty. They sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-21 record, but have lost five of their last seven games.

"It's been a tough year with the transition to a new team, we've had three coaches since I've been there," Lillard said.

"Anytime you have these types of experiences where you have adversity, that's the time you've got to show who you really are. 

"Keep doing what you do, keep believing, and when you do that, usually it comes back to you. You just can't fold."

Doc Rivers suggested the Milwaukee Bucks had "some guys in Cabo" as he reflected on their shock loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Despite missing several key players, including Scotty Pippen Jr – who was out with a back injury – the Grizzlies won 113-110 on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 35 points and 12 assists, but his 43rd double-double of the season was not enough.

And Rivers, whose team are third in the Eastern Conference, believes some of his players were already thinking about potential trips away during the All-Star break, rather than focusing fully on the task at hand.

"We had some guys here, and some guys in Cabo," Rivers said.

"First play of the game, we gamble for the 50th time in the corner. Guy drives, we have to help, leads to a 3.

"On our set, two guys forget what we're running. Then we missed a shot and nobody gets back. That's how we start out the third quarter. That tells you all you need to know about where our heads were.

"These are tough games. Yeah, it's a panic game for coaches."

Ziaire Williams and GG Jackson scored 27 points each for the Grizzlies.

"It feels good," Williams said.

"Proud of this team. We've been fighting our tails off every game. It's good to see. One man falls down, and another one steps up. We're just having fun."

The Grizzlies, whose star player Ja Morant is out for the rest of the campaign, sit 13th in the Western Conference, with a 20-36 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo lauded Doc Rivers for bringing "high standards" to the Milwaukee Bucks after Monday's big win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Bucks ran out 112-95 winners over the reigning NBA champions, with Giannis finishing with a double-double of 36 points and 18 rebounds.

Milwaukee have won their last two games, after a three-game losing spin, and sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-19 record ahead of Tuesday's meeting with the Miami Heat.

While Rivers has not had the easiest of starts in charge since he replaced Adrian Griffin, the Bucks have now held successive opponents to under 100 points for the first time since 2021.

And Giannis credited the former Philadelphia 76ers coach for setting the standards high since his arrival.

"Guys are just being on the same page," Giannis said.

"Coach Doc is holding us to a high standard. He wants us to defend.

"He doesn't take lack of effort as an excuse. If you're on the floor, you've got to do your best."

The defensive organisation was particularly pleasing for Rivers.

"Just steady progress," he said. "Believing in your defense, trusting it, clarifying it, what we want to do.

"The more we can get our guys to know exactly what we're doing, they can play at full speed. That's what we're trying to do. Simplify, so we can play with fire."

Damian Lillard added: "I just think it's the accountability. When we're watching film, we're in our meetings, in practice, I think Doc and our entire staff, they're doing a great job of just calling everything out.

"They're challenging us in a lot of different ways. Our communication, how physical we are, how we carry ourselves as a group.

"Trying to find our identity. Who do we want to be? Who are we going to step like when we get on the floor? And I think we're just having a lot of carryover because there's so much conversation around it."

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Denver sit fourth in the West.

Recent acquisition Buddy Hield scored 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers held on late to end the Cleveland Cavaliers' nine-game winning streak with Monday's 123-121 victory.

Despite still being without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, Philadelphia handed the red-hot Cavaliers just their second loss in their last 19 games behind hot-shooting efforts from Hield and Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Hield, making his third appearance since being acquired by the Sixers from the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 9 of 13 overall from the field. Oubre hit 10 of his 14 field goal attempts while also collecting 24 points.

The win was Philadelphia's second straight following a 1-8 stretch from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, during which the team lost Embiid for an extended period due to a knee injury that required surgery.

Cleveland got 36 points and six assists from All-Star Donovan Mitchell and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jarrett Allen, but couldn't match the Sixers down the stretch after taking a 102-100 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Hield scored the final eight points of a 13-2 run that gave Philadelphia a 113-104 advantage with 4:28 left to play, and the 76ers led 120-110 with 1:25 to go following an Oubre 3-pointer.

The Cavs responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull within 120-119 on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining, and had a chance to win at the buzzer when Darius Garland launched a 3-point shot that just missed the mark.

Garland ended with 21 points and nine assists, while Tyrese Maxey recorded 22 points and nine assists for Philadelphia.

Timberwolves dominate second half in rout of Clippers

The Minnesota Timberwolves got 24 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and a big third quarter to pull away for a 121-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers and pad their lead atop the Western Conference.

Anthony Edwards added 23 points, 12 of which came during a dominant third quarter in which the Timberwolves outscored Los Angeles by a 40-19 margin.

Minnesota entered Monday's clash owning a slim half-game advantage on the Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, who were handed a 112-95 defeat by the Milwaukee Bucks, in the tightly bunched West standings. 

The Clippers kept it close until the latter stages of the third quarter, as the Timberwolves held a 70-69 edge with under five minutes left in the period.

Minnesota took over from there, as it closed out the quarter on a 19-3 run to take a commanding 89-72 lead into the fourth. Towns had eight points during the pivotal spurt.

The Timberwolves maintained a lead of 15 points or more throughout the final period en route to posting a second straight win and giving Los Angeles a second loss in its last three games.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the Clippers with 18 points each, while James Harden finished with 17 points and six assists. 

Bucks use defence to get past champion Nuggets

The Milwaukee Bucks got 36 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo and another strong performance from their much-maligned defence to hand the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets a 112-95 loss.

Milwaukee entered Monday's marquee matchup ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring defence at 119.3 points allowed per game, but held the formidable Nuggets to their second-lowest shooting rate of the season at 38.3 per cent.

The Bucks have yielded under 100 points in consecutive games for the first time this season. Milwaukee lost five of its first six outings under new head coach Doc Rivers prior to Friday's 120-84 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

Nikola Jokić amassed 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver's second and third-leading scorers on the season, were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, however.

Murray managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting before sitting out the second half due to inflammation in his lower legs.

The Bucks had built a comfortable 60-44 lead at that point as Antetokounmpo racked up 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting over the first two quarters. The Nuggets never got their deficit under 13 points the rest of the way and are now mired in a two-game losing streak.

 

Damian Lillard said it was about time the Milwaukee Bucks played like championship contenders after scoring 26 points on his comeback in Friday's win over the Charlotte Hornets.

An ankle injury caused Lillard to miss back-to-back defeats against the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves this week, but he returned with a bang against the short-handed Hornets.

Lillard's 26-point haul led five Milwaukee players in double figures as they condemned Charlotte to a 10th straight defeat, with the All-Star guard also adding four rebounds and eight assists.

Having halted a three-game losing streak, the Bucks sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 34-19 record, and Lillard says a few home truths from head coach Doc Rivers led to their improvement.

"We were just more physical," Lillard said after Friday's game. "Doc just challenged us. He checked us on what we say we want to do versus what we've been doing. 

"To be a team that is considered a contender with what we want to accomplish… we've got to start acting like it."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was only needed for 24 minutes but still recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Bobby Portis added 18 points and seven rebounds.

The Bucks also handed a debut to veteran guard Patrick Beverley, who they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.

He finished with six points and four assists in just 12 minutes on the court, also making a big impression with his willingness to call plays on the floor. 

"He brought energy, he brought edge and just experience," Lillard said of Beverley. "There were times where he just kind of directed some actions offensively and defensively in the huddle.

"He knows who he is, he knows what he brings to a team and he's not shy about it. You heard his voice the moment he walked in."

Beverley said of his approach: "The way I go about things, I'm not going to make everyone happy.

"I'm going to upset some people. I hold myself to a high standard and I expect everyone else to do the same.

"My approach is very strong until you get to know me. But once you get to know me you understand; 'the only thing he does is want to win.'"

Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers is less than impressed after Saturday's win over the Dallas Mavericks meant he is set to coach in the All-Star game.

Rivers picked up his first win as Bucks coach as Giannis' Antetokounmpo's 48 points inspired Milwaukee to a 129-117 comeback victory, while Damian Lillard had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting.

Yet that victory means the Bucks' coach is now obligated to take charge of the Eastern Conference team in the All-Star game on February 18.

That is because Joe Mazzulla, the Boston Celtics coach, is ineligible after coaching in the All-Star game last year. Given the Bucks have the second-best record in the East two weeks before the event, the task will fall to Rivers.

But after just three games in charge of his new team, Rivers – who replaced Adrian Griffin last month – was far from impressed with that outcome.

"It's ridiculously bad. It really is," Rivers said.

"Well, Adrian's going to get some money, that's for sure. And a ring. It's one of those quirky things.

"I think there should be a rule somehow that someone else does it, other than me. Maybe I'll send my staff, and I'll go on vacation.

"I'll run that by Adam Silver. Adam's a good man, I think he'll understand."

Luka Doncic finished with 40 points for the Mavericks, who lost a second straight game.

"Looking at what Milwaukee did, they just kept playing and took our best shot there in the first half and then ended the half on a positive with Dame making that three at the buzzer," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "We didn't take care of the ball."

Damian Lillard has opened the door for a future move to the Portland Trail Blazers after an emotional return to his former home with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 33-year-old was the face of the Blazers' franchise for his first 11 seasons in the NBA and was treated to a lengthy ovation before Wednesday's game.

A number of video tributes were played on the video screen for Lillard during timeouts at Moda Center, where the Bucks went on to lose 119-116 in a second straight loss under new coach Doc Rivers.

Lillard, who was traded to the Bucks in October as part of a three-way deal, was not shy in later letting the crowd know where his heart lies.

"I'm just in a space of like, this is where I am now," he said. "I'm in Milwaukee. I wanted the opportunity to contend, and our team has an opportunity to contend for this year and years to come, and I'm living in that. 

"But definitely, when I was traded, I see a day where I'll be in a Trail Blazer uniform again before I'm done.

"You just feel the appreciation and the love. It was like, 'man, this is a big deal'. Everybody in the building just showed me that type of love and acknowledgement from during my time here. So, I appreciated it.

"I'm not going to cry, nothing like that. I'm not a big crier, but I'm not going to hide the emotions that I feel from it. I think it's a moment that means a lot to me and a lot of other people."

Lillard had 25 points on 9-of-23 shooting – 3 of 13 from 3-point range – with seven assists, six rebounds and four turnovers.

Even before his standing ovation and various other tributes, the eight-time NBA All-Star – who averaged 32.2 points per game with the Blazers last season – talked of his love for Portland on the eve of the game.

"I loved the organization. I loved everybody I went to work with every day," he said. "And I think what made it the hardest is it wasn't a wasn't a broken relationship. 

"So coming back, being able to be here, I'm in a great situation. The reason it all came about in the first place was for a chance to win it all. We couldn't be at that place at the same time. So I come back with love, and I'm excited to be back."

Anfernee Simons ultimately spoiled Lillard's big return with a go-ahead floater with 17.1 seconds remaining, while Giannis Antetokounmpo registered 27 points and eight rebounds, as the Blazers made it back-to-back victories.

"It was a fun night, celebrating a great player, a great person," Simons said. "We came in here knowing we've got stuff we want to accomplish as well. We came in wanting to win the game."

The Bucks are now 32-16 for the season and are second in the Western Conference ahead of facing the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, while the 15-33 Blazers are 14th in the West and take on the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

Anfernee Simons spoiled Damian Lillard’s return to Portland with a go-ahead floater with 17.1 seconds remaining to lift the Trail Blazers to a 119-116 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Lillard had 25 points on 9-of-23 shooting – 3 of 13 from 3-point range – with seven assists, six rebounds and four turnovers in his first game back in Portland since he was traded to Milwaukee in September.

He was the face of the Blazers’ franchise for his first 11 seasons in the NBA and was treated to a lengthy ovation before the game and tributes played on the video scoreboard during timeouts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and eight rebounds and Khris Middleton added 21 and eight assists as the Bucks lost their second straight under new coach Doc Rivers.

Simons finished with 24 points and Deandre Ayton had 20 and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who won their second straight to close a three-game homestand.

 

Durant leads Suns past Nets in return

Kevin Durant poured in 33 points in his return to Brooklyn and Jusuf Nurkic had 28 with 11 rebounds to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 136-120 win over the Nets.

Durant shot 10 of 16 from the field and added eight assists in his first game in Brooklyn since being traded to Phoenix nearly a year ago.

Devin Booker scored 22 points and Eric Gordon added 17 for the Suns, who won for the ninth time in 11 games.

Cam Thomas scored 25 points and Mikal Bridges, who came to Brooklyn in the Durant trade, had 21 as the Nets failed to win three straight for the first time since early December.

 

Mitchell’s big night keeps Cavaliers hot

Donovan Mitchell scored 20 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter and Darius Garland had 19 in his return from a broken jaw as the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the lowly Detroit Pistons, 128-121.

Jarrett Allen had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his franchise-record 16th straight double-double to help the Cavaliers win for the 11th time in 12 games and improve to an NBA-best 16-4 since Dec. 16.

Danilo Galliari scored 20 points and Cade Cunningham added 19 and seven assists for Detroit, which was seeking consecutive wins for the first time since Oct. 27-28.

Garland was 7 of 12 from the field in 20 ½ minutes in his first action after missing 19 games. He sustained the injury in a collision with Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis on Dec. 14.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has full faith in new Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers despite his opening defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Rivers made his Bucks bow on the sideline in Denver after replacing first-year coach Adrian Griffin, but Milwaukee were beaten 113-107 by another of the NBA's best teams.

An NBA champion as coach of the Boston Celtics in 2008, Rivers is vastly experienced but is taking over a team in the middle of a season for the first time.

There will be an adjustment period, but that is something superstar Antetokounmpo is prepared for.

"He was great," the two-time MVP said of Rivers. "Everybody has to have patience. It's new – the way we play, the way we defend, it's going to take a while to get used to.

"We're slowly, slowly adjusting, changing a couple stuff. Coaching staff have got to have patience with the players; players have got to have patience with the coaching staff.

"But I feel like for the first game, it was good."

Indeed, for all the criticism of the Bucks' defense, Rivers felt the blame for the loss to the Nuggets lay with an offense led by Antetokounmpo and offseason signing Damian Lillard.

"I told our guys: anyone who told you that you couldn't play defense lied," Rivers said afterwards. "You proved that tonight. You competed tonight. Our half-court defense was excellent.

"I think tonight was an offensive loss. I didn't think we were crisp offensively.

"Dame and Giannis have played 40 games together in their life, Joker [Nikola Jokic] and [Jamal] Murray have played... you know?

"And if you looked at the game tonight, they had it going, our guys couldn't get it going, and that was the difference."

If not for Rivers' return to the coaching arena, the focus in this game would have been on a battle between Antetokounmpo and Jokic that the Nuggets center edged, finishing with a triple-double of 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.

"That's why I play, to play these kinds of games, to play under the pressure, to play tight games," Jokic said. "I like to play under those circumstances."

Anthony Edwards scored 27 points and helped spark a late run that propelled the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 107-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in a clash of teams that had been tied for the Western Conference lead. 

Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Rudy Gobert amassed 12 points and 18 rebounds as the Timberwolves bounced back from Saturday's one-point loss at Sacramento and dropped the Thunder to third place in the tightly bunched conference standings.

The Denver Nuggets moved a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and remained a half-game behind Minnesota with Monday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Oklahoma City had erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit to take a 97-96 lead on two Shai Gilgeous-Alexander free throws with 2:43 left, but Minnesota's Jaden McDaniels hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to start a pivotal 9-0 spurt.

The Thunder would miss their next four shots as the Timberwolves began pulling away. Edwards followed McDaniels' trey with a running dunk and McDaniels scored on a tip-in before Towns capped the run with two free throws that put Minnesota up 105-97 with 15.5 seconds to go. 

Minnesota owned a 62-52 advantage nearing the midway mark of the third quarter before the Thunder seized momentum with an 11-0 run. Gilgeous-Alexander had six points and Jalen Williams scored the last five of the flurry, which gave Oklahoma City a 63-62 edge with five minutes left in the period.

The Thunder, who were coming off a stunning 120-104 loss to the NBA-worst Detroit Pistons on Sunday, received 37 points and eight assists from Gilgeous-Alexander and 20 points from Williams. 

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City's third-leading scorer at 17 points per game, was held to just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, however, as the Timberwolves finished with a 46-34 point advantage in the paint.

Jokic has another triple-double as Nuggets spoil Rivers' debut with Bucks

Jamal Murray scored 35 points and Nikola Jokić posted his 14th triple-double of the season to power the Denver Nuggets to a 113-107 win over Milwaukee in Doc Rivers' first game as the Bucks' head coach.

Jokic compiled 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists to add to his league-leading triple-double count and help the defending NBA champions keep pace with first-place Minnesota in the West. The Nuggets have now won five of their last six games.

Rivers, who coached the Boston Celtics to an NBA title during the 2007-08 season, was hired shortly after the Bucks dismissed Adrian Griffin on Jan. 23 despite sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record. Assistant Joe Prunty coached Milwaukee's last three games and went 2-1.

The veteran coach's tenure started off strong as the Bucks jumped out to a 24-11 lead midway through the first quarter, though the Nuggets ended the period on a 12-0 run to cut their deficit to 26-25 entering the second. 

Denver gradually asserted control and owned an 84-75 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks hit three straight 3-pointers during a 13-2 spurt that put them back ahead with under nine minutes to play.

The game remained tight until the Nuggets pulled away with an 8-0 run, which Murray capped with a jumper that gave Denver a 106-97 lead with 3:17 to go.

Giannis Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting along with 12 rebounds, while Brook Lopez had 19 points and Damian Lillard finished with 18 in the loss. 

Suns bounce back by handing Heat seventh straight loss

The Phoenix Suns kept rolling behind a balanced attack and strong defence that resulted in a 118-105 victory over the reeling Miami Heat, the seventh consecutive loss for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Eric Gordon scored 23 points off the bench to lead six Phoenix players in double figures in a game the Suns led by as much as 28 points en route to stopping a two-game losing streak.

The Suns also got 22 points from Devin Booker and 20 from Kevin Durant, with both stars finishing with eight rebounds and seven assists each.

Miami went 14 of 36 from 3-point range but was stonewalled from inside the arc, shooting a subpar 39.6 per cent on 2-point attempts in this latest defeat. The Heat have lost seven straight for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 26 points and recent acquisition Terry Rozier had 21 in his fourth game with the Heat.

Miami shot just 35.4 per cent in the first half as the Suns built a 62-49 lead at the break, and its shooting woes continued as Phoenix extended the margin in the third quarter. 

Booker had 12 points and the Suns shot over 68 per cent for the period to open up a commanding 100-74 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard expressed their surprise at the firing of Bucks coach Adrian Griffin after Milwaukee won its first game since the decision.

There was a third triple-double in four games for Giannis as Milwaukee ended the Cleveland Cavaliers’ eight-game winning streak on Wednesday with a 126-116 home victory.

Antetokounmpo had 35 points, a season high-tying 18 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double this season. He came up one assist shy of having four consecutive triple-doubles after he had 31 points, 10 boards and nine assists in Saturday’s win at Detroit.

Joe Prunty served as Milwaukee’s interim head coach after Griffin was fired on Tuesday despite the Bucks leading the Central Division with a 30-13 record, putting them second in the Eastern Conference. The team was finalising negotiations with Doc Rivers to take over.

Lillard added 28 points and Khris Middleton had 24 for the Bucks, winners of six in seven, as Cleveland lost despite Donovan Mitchell scoring 23 points and Jarrett Allen having 21 and 12 assists.

Two-time MVP Giannis was not expecting the decision to fire first-year coach Griffin, but stressed he trusted the front office.

"Their job is to create the best team possible and the best atmosphere around the team possible that they believe gives us a better chance to win a championship," Giannis said to ESPN. 

"But yeah, I do think [firing coach Griffin] was a surprise.

"I've got to trust the front office, I've got to trust the ownership group that they consider the bigger picture. My job is to be the best version of myself, to lead this team out there and help win games."

Giannis had expressed concerns over the Bucks’ performances this season but stressed he had no personal issues with Griffin.

"I loved the guy, I invited him to my wedding," Antetokounmpo said. ""I was coached by him and we did very, very, very well.

"When somebody is being hired, the GM might come and ask, 'What do you think about that? What do you think about this?' or whatever and not just me – players and people that he trusts their advice. 

"But at times they make it seem like it's the players that are making the decision.

"For a coach like Griff, from Day 1, everything was about togetherness. He was always leading this group into the direction we set at the beginning of the year. 

"Him not being here, at the end of the day, we’re humans. It hurts everybody. But we’ve got to keep on moving forward. We have a goal in our head, which is to be the best basketball team that we can be."

Lillard had a similar view to Giannis that the news was unexpected, though has agreed the Bucks could be playing better.

"There's been a lot of expectations on our team," he said. "Things have been expected to look a certain way. We've had a bumpy road to our success, which is sometimes a part of the process. 

"I was surprised. But it's part of the game. People get traded, people get waived, people get fired, and that's never something you want to see."

The Bucks never trailed in a win which avenged their 40-point loss in Cleveland last week and the teams will play again on Friday.

"Our experience really worked in our favor in this situation,” added Lillard. "We have all experienced a lot of things.

"I think this was different for everybody, but we just understood we had a game tonight, and it was going to be a tough game against a really good team that kind of handled us the last time we played them."

Giannis Antetokounmpo notched his third triple-double in four games and the Milwaukee Bucks ended the Cleveland Cavaliers’ eight-game winning streak Wednesday with a 126-116 victory in their first game since the firing of coach Adrian Griffin.

Antetokounmpo had 35 points, a season high-tying 18 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double this season. He came up one assist shy of having four consecutive triple-doubles after he had 31 points, 10 boards and nine assists in Saturday’s win at Detroit.

Joe Prunty served as Milwaukee’s interim head coach after Griffin was fired on Tuesday despite the Bucks leading the Central Division with a 30-13 record. The team was finalising negotiations with Doc Rivers to take over.

Damian Lillard added 28 points and Khris Middleton had 24 for the Bucks, winners of six of seven.

Donovan Mitchell led Cleveland with 23 points and Jarrett Allen had 21 and 12 assists.

 

Booker scores 46 for streaking Suns

Devin Booker scored 22 of his 46 points in the third quarter and the Phoenix Suns won their seventh straight game, 132-109 over the Dallas Mavericks.

Bradley Beal had 20 points and Kevin Durant added 12 and 10 rebounds as Phoenix matched its longest win streak of the season by turning a 16-point deficit in the second quarter into a 22-point lead after outscoring Dallas 43-20 in the third.

Luka Dončić tallied 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists but didn’t get much help with All-Star sidekick Kyrie Irving out with a right thumb sprain.

 

Gilgeous-Alexander keeps Thunder hot

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled away for their fourth straight win, 140-114 over the San Antonio Spurs.

Aaron Wiggins scored 22 points and Chet Holmgren added 17 and nine rebounds as the Thunder remained tied with Minnesota atop the Northwest Division.

Victor Wembanyama had 24 points and 12 rebounds as the Spurs rookie faced off against Holmgren in a matchup of two of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year.

Doc Rivers has agreed to become the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday.

The report comes one day after the Bucks surprisingly fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin with Milwaukee sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record.

Rivers has been serving as an analyst for ESPN after being fired by the Philadelphia 76ers last May.

Rivers ranks ninth all-time in NBA history with 1,097 coaching victories in the regular season and fourth with 111 play-off wins.

He led the Boston Celtics to the NBA title in 2008 and back to the Finals in 2010.

The Bucks fired Mike Budenholzer last offseason after a first-round play-off exit and turned to Griffin, who had been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2008.

Milwaukee, though, has been criticised for its lacklustre defence this season.

The Bucks are allowing 120.5 points per game after giving up 113.3 points a contest in 2022-23. That decline of 7.2 points per game is the second largest in the league this season.

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