Giannis' Bucks claim 15th straight win, Morant posts triple-double against Lakers
The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks extended their winning streak to 15 games after defeating the Brooklyn Nets 118-104 away from home on Tuesday.
Milwaukee are now one win away from tying the third-longest streak in franchise history, while their best-ever run of 20 games, led by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1970-71 season, is now also within reach.
They had to come from behind against the Nets, trailing 35-22 early in the second quarter, but they pulled things level halfway through the third and then hit the front for the entire fourth period.
The Bucks were led by MVP hopeful Giannis Antetokounmpo with a game-high 33 points on 15-of-27 shooting, adding 15 rebounds and four assists on his return, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Brook Lopez chipped in 13 points (six-of-13 shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Three-time All-Star wing Khris Middleton continued his road to recovery with 18 points (seven-of-13), six assists and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench, but he is still yet to exceed 25 minutes in a game since the new year began.
For the Nets, Mikal Bridges was terrific with 31 points (11-of-19), five assists and two steals, and Spencer Dinwiddie put together a strong stat-line of 26 points (nine-of-17), eight assists and six rebounds.
With the win, the Bucks improved to 44-17, remaining ahead of the Boston Celtics (44-18) for the best record in the league.
Brooklyn have lost seven of their past nine, but still sit sixth in the Eastern Conference at 34-27.
Lakers drop first game of LeBron's absence
Desperate for a strong finish to sneak into the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a 121-109 defeat against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first game since LeBron James' injury.
James is expected to miss at least two weeks, and Anthony Davis stepped up to try and fill the void, contributing a team-high 28 points (nine-of-19), a game-high 19 rebounds and a game-high five blocks.
But it was not enough to prevent Ja Morant from getting the result for Memphis, with the reigning Most Improved Player putting together a massive 39-point triple-double, shooting 15-of-29 from the field with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Memphis (37-23) are almost a lock for a top-four seed in the west, but the Lakers (29-33) sit 12th, one game out of the play-in tournament places and 2.5 wins out of the six seed.
Warriors pull above .500
It threatened to be the latest Damian Lillard masterclass early before the Golden State Warriors strangled the life out of the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half of a 123-105 home victory.
Lillard – who is leading the NBA in scoring over the past 15 games with a gaudy 39.5 per contest – had 15 in the first quarter to help the Blazers build a 41-27 lead at the first break.
Golden State steadied the ship, and then produced a 75-40 second half, holding Lillard to just 10 points in the next three quarters and nine-of-21 shooting overall.
Jordan Poole led the way offensively for the Warriors, scoring 29 points (10-of-24 shooting) with six rebounds and five assists, while Donte DiVincenzo put together another strong performance in the starting line-up with 21 points (eight-of-11).
The win, combined with the Dallas Mavericks' loss, meant the Warriors (31-30) ended the day sitting sixth in the West.