It wasn't pretty, but the Bucks earned their 98-97 victory over the Celtics in Milwaukee on Thursday.
Both the Bucks, the No. 1 team in the East, and the Celtics — the team many thought would be No. 1 by season's end — started out sloppy, likely shaking off the All-Star break cobwebs. But they both came alive in the fourth quarter, swapping big defensive plays and clutch baskets to trade the lead several times in the final few minutes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 30 and had 13 rebounds, made the play of the game down the stretch, chasing down Jayson Tatum to emphatically block a layup.
But the Celtics battled back to tie the score at 95 on a 29-footer from Al Horford with 54 seconds remaining. That set the stage for Bucks forward Khris Middleton to knock down a 27-foot three pointer for the eventual game winner.
The Celtics had one final chance, but Kyrie Irving missed a potential game-tying shot as time expired.
Sure, it's only one game, but it could prove big for both teams at the end of the year as they jockey for playoff seeding. The Bucks (44-14) extended their lead over the second-place Raptors, while the Celtics (37-22) remain fifth in the East.
Studs of the Night
LeBron James scored 29 and Brandon Ingram added 27 in the Lakers' 19-point 111-106 comeback win over the Rockets.
Stephen Curry had 36 points in the Warriors' 125-123 win against the Kings.
Portland's Jusuf Nurkic scored 27 (10-of-15 shooting) and pulled down 12 rebounds in the Trail Blazers' 113-99 win over the Nets.
Tobias Harris had 23 points and 11 boards in Philadelphia's 106-102 victory against the Heat.
Dud of the Night
Celtics guard Marcus Smart had almost as many turnovers (3) as points (5), and hit only two of his eight shots.
Stephen Curry throws down a dunk against the Kings, and judging from his exaggerated reaction afterward (wait for it), you'd think he'd never dunked in his life.
Dwyane Wade is up in years but still has the hops and timing for this sweet block.
Jazz (32-25) at Thunder (37-20) 9:30 p.m. ET — Oklahoma City has won 11 of 13, with a red-hot Paul George (37.7 ppg in last nine games) and Russell Westbrook (11 straight triple-doubles) leading the way. The balanced Jazz have seven players averaging in double figures, with Donovan Mitchell pacing the team with 22.4 points per game. The game will air on ESPN.