Bucks, Celtics, Knicks advance in NBA in-season tournament

Agence France-Presse
Bucks, Celtics, Knicks advance in NBA in-season tournament
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks
Stacy Revere / Getty Images / AFP

MIAMI – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and Damian Lillard added 32 as the Milwaukee Bucks beat Miami, 131-124, on Tuesday (Wednesday Manila time), advancing to the knockout rounds of the NBA In-Season Tournament.

On the final night of group stage play in the NBA's inaugural version of a World Cup, the Bucks took the Group B crown at 4-0 and became the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Boston routed Chicago 124-97 to win Group C and advance while the New York Knicks, second behind Milwaukee in Group B, beat Charlotte 115-91 to finish 3-1 and advance as a wildcard based on superior point differential over Cleveland 42-29.

The Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers had already secured berths in next week's tourney quarter-finals ahead of the semi-finals and final next month in Las Vegas.

"We completed the task," Milwaukee's Khris Middleton said. "To get to Vegas now, we've got to do a little bit more.

"We want it. We're hungry for it. It's exciting times for us. We want to go to Vegas so we're happy."

Joining the Lakers in the West knockout stage were the Phoenix Suns, who clinched a wildcard spot when Minnesota beat Oklahoma City 106-103.

Later Western Conference games will complete the final eight with Golden State at Sacramento and Houston at Dallas. Sacramento and Houston would advance with a victory.

At Miami, the Bucks opened a 15-2 lead to start, Miami answered with a 16-4 run, then Milwaukee closed the first quarter on a 12-4 spurt for a 31-22 lead.

"We started out great, but it's hard," Middleton said. "You're just not going to knock a team down in the first five minutes. They did a great job coming back. We did a great job keeping our composure and finding a way to close this thing out."

Miami, lacking Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro due to ankle sprains, battled back for a 62-59 halftime edge and led 97-93 entering the fourth quarter.

Middleton, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, hit back-to-back jump shots for a 122-118 Bucks lead and Brook Lopez's dunk put Milwaukee ahead 129-124 with 38 seconds to play. Antetokounmpo's final dunk sealed the triumph.

"Thankfully I was able to hit a couple shots," Middleton said. "I'm just happy we won a tough game. They had some guys out but some others stepped up and I think it was still a great win for us."

Antetokounmpo hit 11-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the free throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds with five assists while Lillard, 9-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the line, added nine assists.

At New York, Julius Randle scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds while Immanuel Quickley had 23 points off the bench to spark the Knicks over Charlotte.

Boston needed a lopsided win to advance and got it as Jaylen Brown scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed off six assists to lead the hosts over Chicago.

Jayson Tatum added 21 points and Al Horford had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Celtics.

T-Wolves top Thunder
Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while Mikal Bridges added 22 points and 10 rebounds in a 115-103 home win over Toronto.

Cleveland couldn't advance despite a 128-105 home win over Atlanta. Donovan Mitchell scored 40 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the winners while Evan Mobley added 17 points and 17 rebounds.

Western Conference overall season leader Minnesota hung onto the top spot by edging visiting Oklahoma City, improving to 13-4 while the Thunder fell to 11-6.

Anthony Edwards, who left the game in the third quarter with a bruised right hip, led the Timberwolves with 21 points while Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 16 rebounds.

But Minnesota's margin of victory wasn't enough for the T-Wolves to prevent Phoenix from reaching the quarterfinals.

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