Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday argued Giannis Antetokounmpo should be this season's MVP and has blamed voter fatigue for why he is not the favourite.

The MVP race appears a battle of two, between Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, but Antetokounmpo reminded everyone of his quality with his 31st 30-point double-double in Sunday's 117-104 win over the Sixers.

The win boosted the Bucks' (56-22) chances of finishing in the one seed in the Eastern Conference, pulling two games clear of the Boston Celtics (54-24) in the two spot with four games to play.

In a match-up against Embiid, Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks and is averaging 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season. Embiid had 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

The Greek forward is fifth overall for points per game, led by Embiid (33.0), while he is third for rebounds, behind Domantas Sabonis (12.4) and Jokic (11.9).

Holiday argued that because 2019 and 2020 NBA MVP Antetokounmpo has been elite for a long period of time, voters take his quality for granted.

"[Giannis] has been MVP too much," Holiday told reporters when asked about the MVP race. "He's been doing this too much, I feel like people get bored of it.

"It's kind of like the Bron effect. LeBron has done it so many times that people think that it's normal now. And it's not.

"He makes it look so easy. The first couple years that he got it, it's like wow, nobody can do [that] and it's still, to this day, nobody can do what he does.

"He's on the number one team, not just in the East, but in the league."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer echoed Holiday's sentiment, believing that Antetokounmpo is this season's rightful MVP, arguing "he does everything".

"We certainly feel like Giannis is the MVP," Budenholzer said. "Best player, best record, what he does on both ends of the court, the rebounding, the blocked shots, the defense, guarding on the perimeter.

"He does everything: play-makes, attacks, gets to the free throw line. We feel like he's in the conversation and he should be the guy."

Antetokounmpo's 31.1 points per game this season is a career best and comes at 55 per cent shooting across 62 games.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks produced a statement win ahead of the playoffs led by Giannis Antetokounmpo as they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 117-104 on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo scored 33 points with 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks, bringing up his 31st 30-point double-double this season, as they improved to 56-22 at Fiserv Forum.

The win moves Milwaukee closer to clinching the Eastern Conference, with the Boston Celtics (54-24) in the second spot ahead of the 76ers (51-27) in third with four games to play.

Boston, who routed the Bucks 140-99 three nights ago, have the head-to-head tiebreaker on Milwaukee.

The Bucks shot at 57.5 per cent from the field, led by Antetokounmpo's 13-of-17 shooting, while Khris Middleton started strong for 19 points. Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis contributed 21, 18 and 18 points respectively.

Middleton's hot start fuelled the Bucks' 41-26 first-quarter lead and they never looked back, with the 76ers closing to within four points in the third period, before the Bucks pulled away again as Antetokounmpo scored the final seven points of that quarter.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid scored 28 points on 11-of-25 shooting from the field with nine rebounds and five assists.

Tyrese Maxey added a team-high 29 points with six-of-seven from beyond the arc. James Harden was contained to 11 points with six assists.

Thompson spurns game-winning attempt

Klay Thompson missed two game-winning three-point attempts in the final five seconds as the fast-finishing Golden State Warriors lost 112-110 to the Denver Nuggets without Nikola Jokic.

The Warriors had rallied from nine points down in the final two minutes to earn Thompson a three-point shot for victory from Stephen Curry's pass, but his initial attempt rimmed out, before a follow-up was blocked by Aaron Gordon.

Michael Porter Jr (29 points and 11 rebounds) and Jamal Murray (26 points and eight assists) impressed in Jokic's absence.

Thompson and Curry finished with 25 and 21 points each, with the former making five-of-16 from three-point range as Golden State shot nine-of-42 from beyond the arc as a team. Golden State fall to sixth with a 41-38 record with the Los Angeles Lakers right behind them.

LeBron matches Kidd for triple-doubles

Anthony Davis scored 40 points and LeBron James recorded a triple-double as the Lakers claimed their third straight win to boost their playoff hopes, downing the Houston Rockets 134-109.

James finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to draw level wit Jason Kidd in fourth overall (107) for most triple-doubles in NBA history. Russell Westbrook (198) has the most, ahead of Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138).

Davis scored 27 of his 40 points in the first half, with the Lakers improving their record to 40-38 to sit seventh in the West with four games to go. The fifth-placed Los Angeles Clippers (41-38) lost to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, with the two LA sides to meet on Wednesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not surprised the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics due to his team's approach to Thursday's game and warned their rivals would "kick our a**" again if they repeated the performance.

The Bucks retain a two-game lead over the Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference but suffered a humbling 140-99 defeat in the teams' final meeting of the regular season.

Milwaukee will expect to meet Boston again in the playoffs, and Antetokounmpo hopes they will "change some stuff" for that matchup.

He bemoaned the Bucks' attitude in their home loss, saying: "We know what the deal is. It's not hard to understand. If you're not focused, if you don't play hard, they're going to kick our a**. Simple as that.

"There's no level of concern. It's a fact. Now you have this in your head, and it's up to us to see how we're going to deal with it.

"Are we going to go and play the same way? If we play the same way, we'll have the same outcome.

"We've got to change some stuff. We've got to compete. We've got to have some pride."

The Celtics have lost ground in a month in which they have gone 9-6 – to the Bucks' 11-5 – following a number of unexpected defeats.

But Boston continue to respond well to those setbacks, the latest being this week's loss at an undermanned Washington Wizards.

"We've been pretty consistent all year long for the most part," said two-time All-Star Jaylen Brown. "We probably should be closer to 60 wins at this point, but we're a better team than we were last year. We've won more games than we did last year.

"Overall, we haven't dropped the ball; we might have lost some games, but we haven't let a bad game turn into a bad two weeks or a bad month. We've been able to bounce back."

The Boston Celtics produced a stunning 140-99 blowout on the road against the full-strength Milwaukee Bucks in Thursday's potential Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Although the Bucks did roll out their full team, they were playing their third game in four days and were on the second leg of a back-to-back, and their fatigue showed in a horrible first half defensively.

The Celtics piled on 34 points in the first quarter, and added another 41 in the second to open up a commanding 75-47 lead at half-time. Instead of coming out of the locker room with extra intensity, the Bucks proceeded to give up another 39 in the third period to kill the game.

Boston's All-Star duo were nearly faultless, led by Jayson Tatum's 40 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He finished eight-of-10 from three-point range, and a perfect eight-of-eight from the free throw line while adding eight rebounds and zero turnovers.

Jaylen Brown was just as impressive as he made his way to 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and just one turnover, while Sixth Man of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 14 points (six-of-13), five assists and four steals off the bench.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo led his side with 24 points and seven rebounds through three quarters before sitting out the last, although he was a disappointing 11-of-27 from the field and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

The win pulled the Celtics (53-24) to within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the race for the Eastern Conference's top seed, and for the best record in the league.

Ingram shows recent improvement is no fluke

New Orleans Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram has performed at an All-NBA level since the All-Star break and continued to shine in a 107-88 triumph over the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets.

Ingram, 25, posted the first triple-double of his career last Thursday and followed it with a career-high 13 assists on Saturday, and he now has his second triple-double after 31 points (13-of-22), 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Nuggets.

Across his past eight games, Ingram is averaging 29.6 points, 8.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 51.8 per cent from the field and 48 per cent from deep.

The result improved the Pelicans' record to 39-38, leapfrogging the Minnesota Timberwolves into the Western Conference's seventh seed, with Zion Williamson's return potentially imminent after working out on-court prior to Thursday's game.

Jrue Holiday joked he "felt like Giannis" after leading the Milwaukee Bucks with 51 points in Wednesday's 149-136 defeat of the Indiana Pacers.

The league-leading Bucks made it seven wins from their last 10 as they picked up their 55th victory of the season in style.

Holiday top-scored with 51 points, eight assists and as many rebounds, while talismanic team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double of 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.

It meant 32-year-old Holiday, who joined the NBA in 2009, surpassed his previous high of 40 points, set earlier this season in a win over the Boston Celtics.

For Holiday, it was a taste of what it must be like to be two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo.

"I felt like Giannis," Holiday quipped. "No dunks though.

"Obviously, I'm happy about it.

"It took me 14 years to get 50 points. It came in a game that we needed to win, so I couldn't be happier."

Holiday, like Antetokounmpo, sat out Monday's win over the Detroit Pistons, and he felt that rest was key.

"A couple of days off," he suggested when asked by ESPN what had been behind his showing. "Really just been aggressive, because I know how much we needed to win this game."

Holiday was 20 of 30 from the field, while sinking three three-pointers from six attempts.

"It's hard to come up with the superlatives to describe them," said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer of Holiday and Antetokounmpo.

"They were phenomenal. Giannis set the tone with his aggressive attacking. Then Jrue for the whole game to have 51, that's hard to do in an NBA game.

"Together with Giannis with 38, those two guys were special, they put us on their backs."

Next up for the Bucks is a top-of-the-standings clash with the Celtics. 

The Milwaukee Bucks will face the Detroit Pistons on Monday without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and fellow All-Star Jrue Holiday.

Sitting only 1.5 games clear of the Boston Celtics (52-23) in the race for the top seed in the East, and the best record in the league, the Bucks (53-21) will also welcome back veteran point guard Goran Dragic on a minutes restriction after six weeks on the sidelines because of a left-knee problem.

As well as the top seed, Milwaukee also have a chance to match or beat their best record in the Antetokounmpo era, but they will need to go undefeated in their last eight games to eclipse the 60-22 mark from the 2018-19 campaign. They can tie it by going 7-1.

Antetokounmpo is viewed as an outside chance to swoop in and claim the MVP award ahead of reigning back-to-back winner Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid, and he is not the only Bucks player trending towards some silverware.

Holiday will almost assuredly be selected to his fifth NBA All-Defensive team, where he will be joined by team-mate and Defensive Player of the Year favourite Brook Lopez, who is averaging a career-high 2.5 blocks per game in his 15th season.

The Milwaukee Bucks were "grumpy" in Saturday's loss to the Denver Nuggets, but Michael Malone lauded his players for their work in frustrating Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.

A battle between the top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences ended in a big 129-106 win for the Nuggets in Denver.

It was the second night of a back-to-back for the Bucks, having scored 144 in beating the Utah Jazz on Friday.

Although Antetokounmpo insisted he did not want to make excuses for the defeat, he acknowledged "legs were heavy" and "shots were short".

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer added: "It was a night where we were grumpy. It happens.

"I've got to give credit to Denver. They played well, we weren't our best.

"You always want some things to be a little bit different, but it didn't happen. We'll take it and get ready for the next game."

Antetokounmpo still scored 31 points, but 24 came in the first half. His shooting went cold in the second half, as did Milwaukee's from three-point range, making three of 17 from deep across the third and fourth quarters.

Nuggets coach Malone felt his team – and two players in particular – deserved credit for that turnaround.

"You can't guard Giannis one-on-one, nobody can. He's a great player," Malone said.

"But I felt that Aaron Gordon did everything he could to stifle him – especially in that second half. Giannis was two-for-eight, seven points in the second half.

"Aaron took the challenge head on, but I felt the four guys around Aaron gave the necessary and appropriate help.

"Take Aaron out to start the fourth quarter, I felt Jeff Green picked up right where Aaron left off. Had some great possessions, you have to be into him [Giannis], you have to be physical, and when he drives and spins, you want to be there to clamp down on that drive.

"When we out-rebound our opponent, we win; when we value the ball, we usually win; it's a hell of a performance.

"The three-point line I was worried about most – they were nine-of-36, 25 per cent. So, I thought the defense overall was just outstanding."

In a highly anticipated clash between winners of the past four MVPs it was Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets comfortably handling Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks 129-106.

Played in Denver, the reigning back-to-back MVP winner put on a show for his home fans with 31 points (10-of-20 shooting), 11 assists and six rebounds. 

Jokic was supported in style by Jamal Murray, who chipped in 26 points (nine-of-19), nine assists and six rebounds, and kick-started the Nuggets with four triples in the first quarter.

Antetokounmpo, winner of the 2019 and 2020 MVP trophies, was far from the reason his side went down, posting a strong 31 points (13-of-22), nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. He led Milwaukee to a 66-63 half-time lead, before they put up just 40 points as a team in the second half.

After a mini-slump with four losses from of five games, the Nuggets have now rattled off three wins in a row, improving their home record to 31-6 in the process, which trails only the Memphis Grizzlies (32-5) for the league's best mark.

Despite the loss, Milwaukee (53-21) are still two games clear in the race for the league's best record, while the Nuggets are 3.5 games clear atop the West.

Hawks prevail despite Trae ejection

Atlanta Hawks franchise player Trae Young was ejected for throwing the ball at an official, but his side still came away with a 143-130 home win against the visiting Indiana Pacers.

Young was kicked out in the second quarter after the incident, but eight Hawks players ended up scoring double-figures to pick up the slack.

John Collins led the way with 21 points (nine-of-12 shooting), Dejounte Murray added 20 points (eight-of-20) and 12 assists, and Clint Capela snatched down 17 rebounds to go with his 17 points (five-of-five).

The win pulled the Hawks' record even at 37-37, now a game clear of the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors (36-38) as they battle for play-in tournament positioning.

Pelicans muddy the waters in the West

The New Orleans Pelicans kept their season alive with a 131-110 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers, creating a logjam in the Western Conference's play-in placings.

Second-year Pelicans wing Trey Murphy was spectacular as he hit 10-of-12 three-pointers for an equal team-high 32 points. He was joined on 32 points by Brandon Ingram, and after Ingram's first career triple-double on Thursday, he followed it with a career-high 13 assists against the Clippers.

The win means the Pelicans are in a three-way tie for the seventh-best record in the West, joining the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers at 37-37 with eight games to play.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer simply called Giannis Antetokounmpo "special" after shooting a perfect nine-of-nine 22-point triple-double in Sunday's 118-111 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Antetokounmpo brought up his 33rd career triple-double with 22 points on 100 per cent shooting from the field, with 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Greek forward became only the ninth NBA player to achieve a triple-double with perfect shooting from the field. It was only the 13th perfect triple-double in NBA history.

"It was mentioned that he was perfect from the field, it's like a pitcher with a perfect game," Budenholzer told reporters.

"It is fascinating to go nine-of-nine from the field and have a triple-double. I'm a little surprised it's happened 13 times. It seems like a rarity. I'm not a huge stat guy or historian but he's special."

Antetokounmpo was more interested in the Bucks claiming their 51st win of the season, improving their NBA-best record to 51-20, having lost their previous game 139-123 to the Indiana Pacers.

"I'm happy we were able to get a win, get back on track," Antetokounmpo said. "When you're in the moment it moves that fast, you don't slow down and appreciate it.

"Maybe when I'm older and I'm done and gonna look back like, 'Oh, that was cool I was able to do that, now I'm not able to run or jump or chase my kids.' Right now, when you're into it, it moves too fast."

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the NBA for points per game (31.4) and second for rebounds (11.9) this season.

Budenholzer was delighted with Brook Lopez's impact in Sunday's win, leading their 29-16 fourth-quarter charge with the first eight points of the final period.

Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, with the Bucks flipping the game early in the last on a 15-2 run. The Bucks center also had five rebounds and two blocks.

"It changed the game," Budenholzer said. "I think what he did offensively was important, and then the defense always stands out.

"It was a little bit muddy, not a pretty game there, and he stepped up and kind of just changed our feel and changed the momentum for us, particularly offensively, which we needed tonight."

Nikola Jokic recorded his 28th triple-double of the season as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets rediscovered some form with a 108-102 road victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

The Nuggets had lost five of their past six games, but improved to 48-24 with the triumph, maintaining a sizeable buffer at the top of the West from the second-placed Sacramento Kings (43-27).

Serbian center Jokic starred with 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting with 17 rebounds and 10 assists, while Michael Porter scored a team-high 28 points with five-of-nine three-point attempts.

Jamal Murray added 25 points, nailing all four of his attempts from beyond the arc, and he posted 20 of his haul in the opening quarter as Denver got a fast start to lead 33-21 at the first break.

The Nuggets were coasting to victory with a 91-71 lead at three-quarter time before the Nets rallied in the fourth, with Porter settling the game with one of his five triples.

The defeat dents Brooklyn's aspirations to claim a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference, falling to 39-32, marginally ahead of the seventh-placed Miami Heat (39-34).

Mikal Bridges top scored for the home side with 23 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field, while Nic Claxton chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds.

Giannis records triple-double in Bucks win

The Milwaukee Bucks stormed past the Toronto Raptors 118-111 on a 29-16 fourth-quarter charge as Giannis Antetokounmpo brought up his 33d career triple-double.

Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points on 100 per cent shooting from the field with 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Brook Lopez added a team-high 26 points with Khris Middleton scoring 20.

Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the final period, including the first eight of the quarter, with the Bucks going on a game-changing 15-2 run. The NBA-best Bucks are now 51-20.

SGA leads OKC past Suns

Shai Gilgeous-Alezander scored 40 points, came up clutch down the stretch and garnered M-V-P chants as the Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their play-in hopes with a 124-120 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Gilgeous-Thunder hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to hold off the Suns, who had Devin Booker score 46 points, including 30 in the second half, having led 69-57 at half-time. Chris Paul scored 14 points with 13 assists.

OKC (35-36) have four wins from their past five games to stay in the play-in hunt, thanks in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander's perfect 11-of-11 free throws in the second half, while Luguentz Dort added 20 points.

Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic prioritised his scoring to help the Denver Nuggets snap their four-game losing streak on Thursday.

Jokic posted a game-high 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and nine assists as his Nuggets came back from an early deficit to defeat the Detroit Pistons 119-100 on the road.

Denver trailed by six at half-time, but went on to outscore the Pistons 61-36 the rest of the way, and Jokic was leaving nothing to chance.

Between December 30 and March 10, Jokic had only one game where he made at least 14 field goals. He has now reached that figure in three of his past four outings, and over that span he has put up averages of 32.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.5 assists to try and shake the Nuggets out of their mini-slump.

A big reason for their recent dip in form has been the play of second-star Jamal Murray, who came into the contest after shooting 19-of-58 (32.8 per cent) over his past three. He was not at his scoring best against the Pistons, but he was a worthy contributor, chipping in 19 points (seven-of-15 shooting) with 10 assists and six rebounds.

On the other side, it was an eye-opening performance off the bench from rookie Jalen Duren, piling up 15 points (seven-of-10 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his 27 minutes.

The victory improves Denver's Western Conference-leading record to 47-23, while the 16-55 Pistons own the league's worst record and the best odds at landing the number one draft pick.

Sabonis shines as Kings remain one of the league's hottest teams

Domantas Sabonis was the star of the show as his Sacramento Kings fought off the gritty Brooklyn Nets for a 101-96 road win.

No team in the NBA has a better record over their past 10 games than the Kings' 8-2 mark, and they were propelled Thursday by Sabonis' 24 points (eight-of-14 shooting), 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. In doing so, Sabonis broke Otis Thorpe's franchise record (1987-88 season) for the most rebounds in a single regular season (837).

Sacramento will be anxiously awaiting further news on starting wing Kevin Huerter after he left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, but they have plenty of wiggle room after taking sole possession of the West's second seed.

At 42-27, the Kings are 4.5 games behind the Nuggets, and 5.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings.

Bucks defense goes missing in Pacers upset

One of the best defenses in the league had no answers for the Indiana Pacers as the Milwaukee Bucks fell in a surprising 139-123 upset.

The Bucks looked on course to add to their league-best 50 wins after piling on 40 points in the first quarter, but they undid all their good work by allowing the Pacers to score 84 in the second half.

Eight Pacers scored double-figures, led by Andrew Nembhard's 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting, while the highlight of the game came from Myles Turner's posterising dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee (50-20) sit two games clear atop the East, with the Boston Celtics (48-22) their closest competitor in the race for the league's best record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo warned his team-mates not to get ahead of themselves after the Milwaukee Bucks became the first side to clinch a playoff spot.

The Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 116-104 at Footprint Center on Tuesday to make it 20 wins from their past 22 games and reach 50 victories for the season.

Giannis backed up Monday's 46-point return against the Sacramento Kings with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in another convincing victory.

Milwaukee are the favourites to land the NBA title, but Antetokounmpo believes there is room for improvement.

"We're in a good place," said Antetokounmpo, whose average of 31.5 points per game this term is the fourth-best in the division. "We've got to keep on learning, staying humble."

Antetokounmpo later added on Twitter: "One game at a time. You can't skip steps."

The Bucks let a 57-48 lead slip in the fourth quarter against the Suns, who were still missing Kevin Durant, but they responded well to make it back-to-back road wins.

"We just mentioned it in the coaches' locker room to appreciate this," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. 

"Making the playoffs in this league is hard. You should never take anything for granted."

The Bucks are back in action on Thursday with a home game against the Indiana Pacers, who are down in 12th in the Eastern Conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks underlined their NBA title favouritism as they reached 50 wins for the season with a commanding 116-104 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo backed up Monday's 40-point return against the Sacramento Kings with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists at the Footprint Center.

The Bucks have won 20 of their past 22 games, including a 15-game winning streak during that stretch, while the Suns have now lost three consecutive games.

Milwaukee's record is 50-19, pulling clear of the Boston Celtics (47-22) in second in the Eastern Conference, while the 37-31 Suns remain among the mayhem in the tight Western Conference playoffs race.

The Suns had rallied from a 57-48 half-time deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter but the Bucks steadied, with Antetokounmpo's block on Devin Booker's two-point attempt among the highlights.

Bucks center Brook Lopez added 21 points with 10 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Booker top scored for the Suns, still missing Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury, with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting, while Chris Paul added 11 points with eight assists. Phoenix only made eight three-pointers for the game.

Nuggets fall to fourth straight defeat

The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets slumped to their fourth straight defeat despite a third-quarter rally, going down 125-110 to the Toronto Raptors.

Fred VanVleet scored 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting including eight triples as the Raptors flew out of the blocks with a franchise-record 49-point first quarter, improving their record to 33-26.

The Nuggets fall to 46-23 amid their slump, with Nikola Jokic scoring 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Porter Jr added 23 points with five three-pointers.

Lakers hit franchise record in key win over Pels

Anthony Davis produced a bounce-back display after his "terrible" showing two nights ago with 35 points and 17 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers won 123-108 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Malik Beasley added 24 points, shooting seven-of-12 from beyond the arc, as the Lakers moved closer to .500 with a 34-35 record to boost their playoffs hopes.

Beasley's three-point shooting helped the Lakers achieve a franchise record for threes made in a half, with 15 as a team before half-time.

Mike Budenholzer hailed a "really special" game from Khris Middleton and described a scuffle that marred the closing moments as "unfortunate" as the Milwaukee Bucks won 133-124 against the Sacramento Kings.

Three-time All-Star Middleton's 31 points were a season-high, shooting nine-of-15 from the field and adding nine assists. He was the perfect sidekick for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who ended up scoring 46 points on 19-of-28 shooting, with 12 rebounds and four assists.

It was Antetokounmpo's sixth game this season with at least 45 points, while no other player has more than Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid's four.

Sacramento's Domantas Sabonis had 23 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, completing his 10th triple-double of the season.

The game's final stages saw tensions boil over as Sacramento's Trey Lyles and Milwaukee's Brook Lopez were ejected after an ugly melee.

That set-to broke out with 15.4 seconds remaining, sparked by a shove on Antetokounmpo by Lyles, with Lopez stepping in and squaring up to the Kings man, leading to a mass grappling match at courtside.

Budenholzer said that moment was "just unfortunate" as he preferred to look at the positives from a fine road win.

"I think it was a great game, a lot of good things happened," Budenholzer said. "I was so impressed by Sacramento and the way they played, and it was good for our guys to fight back in the second half. I'm really not going to say anything about what did or didn't happen. To me, it was unfortunate."

At one point in the game, Lopez needed patching up as blood flowed from a wound on his face. He and the Bucks came back strongly after trailing 49-33 to get the win, improving their NBA-leading record to 49-19 for the season.

While Antetokounmpo was excellent on his return from a three-game hand injury lay-off, Budenholzer saved his highest praise for Middleton.

"Khris was really special," the Bucks coach said. "He had a stretch in the third quarter, he had a stretch in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch the ball was in his hands; the execution, the decision-making, the shot-making was high level, and it's good to see. We've just got to continue to grow, the execution down the stretch was good.

"I think the first half was not our best and down the stretch with the ball in his hands, we do that a lot, and it's like falling into a good old habit. And he and Jrue [Holiday] and Giannis were good. Everybody played together and executed and Khris sometimes is that guy that's at the point of it."

Lopez and Sabonis fought a running battle that Budenholzer likened to a prize fight.

"We were just talking in the locker room. It was like a 15-round heavyweight boxing match," the coach said in his post-game press conference.

"Sabonis was incredibly impressive and I feel the same way about Brook. They're just two great players going at each other. His best stuff against Brook's best stuff. The whole game was a match-up to watch, Brook and Sabonis going against each other, and I think everybody got their money's worth.

Giannis Antetokounmpo refused to let his Milwaukee Bucks lose to the Sacramento Kings on Monday, dragging them back from an early deficit and carrying them to a 133-124 road win.

After missing the past three games while nursing a hand injury, Antetokounmpo started like a house on fire, scoring 15 points in the first quarter.

Despite his early heroics, the Kings led by five at quarter-time, and they jumped out to a 49-33 advantage after a 17-6 start to the second period.

From that point on, the Bucks responded with a 50-29 run, taking the lead as Antetokounmpo racked up a gaudy stat-line of 40 points, 10 rebounds and three assists by the end of the third quarter.

A wildly entertaining fourth period saw the teams combine for 80 points, with Khris Middleton scoring 14 of his 31 in what was his best game of the season.

The three-time All-Star's 31 points were a season-high, shooting nine-of-15 from the field and adding nine assists.

He was the perfect sidekick for Antetokounmpo, who ended up scoring 46 points on 19-of-28 shooting, with 12 rebounds and four assists. It was his sixth game this season with at least 45 points, while no other player has more than Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid's four.

The win is the Bucks' 20th from their past 22 outings, improving their league-leading record to 49-19, while the 40-27 Kings fell to third in the West, overtaken by the 41-26 Memphis Grizzlies.

Warriors ride Klay's 30-point half

Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson delivered another memorable performance as he shot his side to a 123-112 home victory against the Phoenix Suns.

Thompson had 18 points in the first quarter, and reached half-time with 33 on 12-of-18 shooting, hitting eight of his 12 three-point attempts.

He would score only five more points in the second half, as Jordan Poole picked up the slack down the stretch with 20 points (eight-of-16) and six assists off the bench.

Devin Booker was strong for the Suns with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, while Deandre Ayton piled up 27 points (13-of-19) and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.

The result pulls the Warriors (36-33) to within 1.5 games of the fourth-seeded Suns (37-31).

Edwards and 'Slow-Mo' put on a show

Anthony Edwards looked every bit of a franchise superstar as his Minnesota Timberwolves overcame a 41-point performance from Trae Young to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 136-115.

The former top overall draft pick shot 12-of-25 from the field for a team-high 32 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. He was supported in spectacular fashion by Kyle 'Slow-Mo' Anderson, with 14 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double of the season.

Young was terrific for the Hawks, shooting 15-of-25 from the field and adding seven assists, but supporting pieces De'Andre Hunter and Dejounte Murray shot a combined 11-of-32.

Minnesota (35-34) are now just one game behind the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (36-33).

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