Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday drained a step-back jump shot with two seconds remaining as the Bucks edged the Memphis Grizzlies 112-111 Thursday for a boost heading into the NBA All-Star break.
Ja Morant had put the Grizzlies up with 7.5 to play, driving for a finger roll layup that put Memphis ahead 111-110.
But the tense battle that saw five lead changes in the final minute ended as Grizzlies rookie Desmond Bane’s three-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired.
The Bucks notched their sixth victory in seven games, led by 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists from two-time defending Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo was in action even as a number of other top players slated to compete in Sunday’s All-Star game in Atlanta took the night off, including Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Khris Middleton added 22 points and 10 rebounds while Holiday and Pat Connaughton chipped in 15 points apiece.
Morant led Memphis, scoring 28 of his 35 points in the second half as the Grizzlies shook off their early shooting woes to knot the score at 84-84 heading into the fourth quarter, in which Memphis led by as many as seven.
It was close in Washington, where the underdog Wizards edged the Los Angeles Clippers 119-117.
Bradley Beal scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 27 points with nine rebounds, 11 assists and four steals for Washington, who avenged a blowout loss to the Clippers last week.
Los Angeles led 106-102 with 4:36 remaining. Three-pointers from Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner gave the Wizards the lead and Beal drained a jump shot as the Wizards put together an 11-0 scoring run to take control.
Kawhi Leonard’s three-pointer pulled the Clippers within one point with 15.7 seconds to play, but two free throws from Beal and one from Rui Hachimura kept the Wizards in front and Westbrook came up with a key rebound to deny the Clippers a final chance.
Leonard finished with 22 points to lead the Clippers, who were without All-Star Paul George who was a last-minute scratch with dizziness.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler returned from a two-game absence with right knee inflammation to lead the Heat in a 103-93 victory over the Pelicans.
Butler sparks Heat
Butler, who wasn’t selected for the All-Star Game, scored 29 points with nine assists and three steals.
Despite the absence of Bam Adebayo, the Heat led by as many as 17 points in the first half.
But they sputtered offensively in the third and the Pelicans had cut Miami’s lead to two with 6:26 remaining before Butler keyed a 16-8 Heat scoring run.
The Denver Nuggets relied on their trio of stars in a 113-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Nikola Jokic scored 20 points with 12 rebounds and eight assists, Michael Porter Jr. added 24 points and 11 rebounds and Jamal Murray contributed 23 points for Denver, who were without injured Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green as well as Facundo Campazzo who was absent due to Covid-19 safety protocols.
The surprising New York Knicks go into the All-Star break with a winning record, improving to 19-18 with a 114-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Derrick Rose missed his second straight game for New York due to Covid contact tracing. Injured Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robson were also out.
But with a strong defensive performance and 27 points and 16 rebounds from All-Star forward Julius Randle, the Knicks led from wire to wire against a Pistons team that is bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference.