Bucks grab big win over West-leading T'Wolves, tempers flare in New Orleans

Agence France-Presse
Bucks grab big win over West-leading T'Wolves, tempers flare in New Orleans
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - FEBRUARY 23: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks goes up for a shot against Rudy Gobert #27 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter at Target Center on February 23, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Bucks defeated the Timberwolves 112-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
David Berding / Getty Images / AFP

LOS ANGELES, United States -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks roared out of the NBA All-Star break with a 112-107 victory over Western Conference leaders Minnesota on Friday (Saturday, Manila time.) 

Damian Lillard drilled a step-back basket with 10.3 seconds remaining to seal the win, the Bucks holding off a frantic Minnesota rally that saw the Timberwolves slice a 17-point deficit to four on Anthony Edwards's three-pointer with 1:58 left to play.

Antetokounmpo grabbed two offensive rebounds and made three free throws to push the lead back to seven.

Two more clutch three-pointers from Edwards kept the Timberwolves in with a chance, but Antetokounmpo found Jae Crowder for a layup and Lillard delivered the dagger with 9.2 seconds left to play.

"That's what Dame does," Antetokounmpo said. "We've just got to get out of his way and just let him be great. He thrives with those moments."

Edwards finished with 28 points, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Rudy Gobert added 12 points and 19 rebounds for the Timberwolves.

But ultimately Minnesota couldn't overcome a disastrous third quarter in which the Bucks out-scored them 36-13.

Antetokounmpo was displeased with the Bucks' own sloppy spell early in the fourth.

"But we kept our composure," he said.

The same couldn't be said for the Miami Heat and the Pelicans in New Orleans, where the Heat triumphed 106-95 in a rollercoaster of a contest that saw four players ejected after a brawl early in the fourth quarter.

Miami star Jimmy Butler returned after missing three games because of a death in his family and scored 23 points with nine rebounds before he was among those tossed in the melee that erupted after Miami center Kevin Love tried to wrap up Zion Williamson and the Pelicans star ended up on the floor.

Butler and Naji Marshall got into a shoving match with Marshall briefly grabbing Butler's throat. Players flooded the court and Heat backup center Thomas Bryant -- who didn't even play in the game -- was among those ejected as was New Orleans' Jose Alvarado, who appeared to throw a punch.

When order was restored New Orleans grabbed a 91-89 lead but the Heat -- who led by as many as 19 -- responded with an 11-0 scoring run to regain control.

"Nobody wants to see anything like that," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the fracas, which he believed stemmed from a "misunderstanding" of what happened on the play when Williamson fell.

"I honestly think Zion slipped on the play when K-Love grabbed him," Spoelstra said. "And then everybody kind of over-reacted.

"I think they interpreted that K-Love threw (Williamson) down. On K-Love's best day, I don't think he could throw him down."

- 'Just competitive' -
Williamson, who led the Pelicans with 23 points, said Love actually tried to protect him when he fell. He tried to calm things down, but he could see how the situation spiraled.

"It's just competitive," Williamson said. "It's people riding for their teammates."

Tempers flared also in San Francisco, where Golden State's Lester Quinones and Charlotte's Grant Williams were ejected when players scuffled in the waning moments of the Warriors' 97-84 victory over the Hornets.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 15 points in the victory over his brother Seth's Hornets -- who were held to the fewest points by a Warriors opponent since 2022.

Elsewhere, LeBron James returned from an ankle injury to score 30 points with nine assists and seven rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' 123-118 victory over rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs.

Wembanyama had 27 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists, adding five blocked shots and five steals to become just the 15th player, and the youngest ever, to post the statistical "5x5" -- at least five points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in one game.

"I've said it from the beginning, he's special," James said of Wembanyama.

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