Record-setting Giannis lifts Bucks over Nets

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives against Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on March 31, 2022 in New York City. (AFP)

Giannis Antetokounmpo forced overtime with a milestone three-pointer and drained two free throws to seal a 120-119 Milwaukee victory over Brooklyn Thursday that clinched the NBA champion Bucks' playoff berth.

Milwaukee superstar Antetokounmpo finished with 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the victory -- which could well be a preview of a first-round playoff series.

Kevin Durant had 26 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for Brooklyn, but his potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired bounced off the rim.

Antetokounmpo broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Bucks' franchise scoring record -- moving into first on the club's all-time list with a step-back three-pointer over Nets center Andre Drummond with 18.7 seconds left in regulation.

That knotted the score at 110-110 and Durant then couldn't get a jump shot to fall.

Three free throws from Durant put the Nets up 119-118 with 8.7 seconds left in overtime.

But Antetokounmpo took an inbounds pass and drove to the rim, drawing a foul and calmly making the winning free throws.

Jrue Holiday added 19 points for Milwaukee and Khris Middleton had 16 before he was ejected for a flagrant foul midway through the third quarter, when he brought down Bruce Brown as the Nets player rose for a dunk.

Although the Bucks led 96-92 with 8:12 remaining in regulation, they suddenly went cold and the Nets powered ahead with an 11-0 scoring run before Milwaukee steadied themselves and forced overtime.

Antetokounmpo came into the contest game 39 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's career-scoring leader who started his career with the Bucks and scored 14,211 points for them from 1969-75.

But the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who is staking his claim to another MVP award, wasn't interested in talking about the franchise record, focusing instead on the Bucks' home game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and the quest to dislodge the Miami Heat from the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

"There's things that have to be done," Antetokounmpo said.

In other games, Trae Young scored 30 points and handed out nine assists to lead the Atlanta Hawks in a wire-to-wire 131-107 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Hawks notched their fourth straight win and secured a place in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, in which the seventh- through 10th-placed teams will battle for the last two berths in the playoffs proper.

The Cavs' defeat also meant the Boston Celtics officially punched their playoff ticket, even though they didn't play on Thursday.

In Detroit, the lowly Pistons stormed back in the fourth quarter to stun Philadelphia despite 37 points and 15 rebounds from the 76ers' MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

Saddiq Bey scored 10 of his 20 points in the final five minutes for Detroit, who were already eliminated from playoff contention.

"I thought we played with very little life tonight, didn't play together tonight at all," said 76ers coach Doc Rivers, whose team are fourth in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind leaders Miami.

"It's funny, I thought the first eight minutes of the game we played pretty well. After that, I thought we just stood around."

DeRozan scores 50

In Chicago, DeMar DeRozan scored a season-high 50 points to lead the Bulls to a 135-130 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers led by three with seven seconds remaining but Terance Mann fouled DeRozan on an inbounds and the Bulls veteran made that free throw.

DeRozan was then fouled by Paul George on a three-point attempt and made two free throws to level the score and force the extra session.

The Clippers still ended the night assured of a play-in berth, after the reeling Los Angeles Lakers fell 109-122 to the Jazz in Utah.

Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points and Rudy Gobert added 25 with 17 rebounds for the Jazz.

Russell Westbrook led the Lakers with 24 points and seven assists, but the 2020 champions again find themselves outside the play-in spots at 11th in the West and hoping injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be back before it's too late.