Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 49 points Sunday afternoon and outdueled Kevin Durant as the host Milwaukee Bucks edged the Brooklyn Nets, 117-114.
Antetokounmpo, who missed Friday's game against the Chicago Bulls with an ankle injury, delivered the dunk that put the Bucks ahead for good with 7:57 left. The 49 points were the third-most of his career and his most since he scored 50 points against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 25, 2019.
Khris Middleton had 26 points and 11 rebounds as the Bucks (40-24) maintained their hopes of finishing first in the Eastern Conference for the third straight season. Milwaukee closed within 2 1/2 games of the second-place Nets (43-22) and within three games of the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers (43-21), who defeated San Antonio 113-111 in overtime later Sunday.
Jrue Holiday had 18 points and Bryn Forbes 12 points for the Bucks.
Durant tied a season-high with 42 points but missed a pair of potential game-tying 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds, including a shot that glanced off the rim just before the buzzer.
DeAndre Jordan finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving scored 20 points. Off the bench, Landry Shamet netted 17 points and Blake Griffin added 11.
The Nets led by as many as 14 in the first quarter before the Bucks chipped away in the second, when they went on a quarter-ending 18-9 run to take a 62-59 lead. Holiday's 3-pointer tied the score at 52-52 with 3:20 left, and Forbes' 3-pointer put Milwaukee ahead 57-54 -- its first lead since 2-0.
The Bucks led by as many as seven in the third, which ended with three lead changes and one tie in the final 1:30. A jumper by Antetokounmpo tied the score at 90-90 before Holiday missed a 3-pointer and Brook Lopez whiffed on a putback just before the buzzer.
Griffin and Shamet opened the fourth with 3-pointers for the Nets, but Middleton scored six straight points to spark the Bucks' 11-0 run that included Antetokounmpo's go-ahead dunk.
Milwaukee twice led by seven before the Nets pulled within three points three times. Brooklyn was 0-for-3 on potential game-tying 3-pointers, with Irving missing a chance to knot the score with 1:28 remaining.
--Field Level Media