Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points and had nine rebounds to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-109 victory over Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks in a battle between the two early frontrunners for NBA Most Valuable Player honours.
Two-time MVP winner Antetokounmpo hit 14-of-21 shots from the floor and Khris Middleton finished with 25 points for the host Bucks, who have won seven of their last eight games.
Doncic shot 12-of-24 from the floor for a team-high 28 points after coming off a 34-point performance in a win over Charlotte two nights earlier.
“We showed him bodies. He wasn’t able to step back. We made him pass the ball,” Antetokounmpo said of Doncic.
After Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez missed a free throw with one second left, Doncic launched a desperation two-handed three-point attempt at the buzzer but it hit the backboard and bounced harmlessly away to give Milwaukee the win.
“We just stayed with it,” said Middleton. “They did a good job rebounding off the glass and made some tough shots but we just stayed with it.”
Middleton drained a pair of clutch three-pointers late in the fourth quarter. He also had eight rebounds and six assists.
The former second-round draft pick was traded to the Bucks in 2013 from Detroit.
“Each year is about getting better and finding ways to make my teammates better. That is what they do for me,” said Middleton, who recently donated $100,000 to the employees at Fiserv Forum who lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jrue Holiday had 16 points and Lopez added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, who overcame Antetokounmpo’s one-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line.
Doncic also had 13 assists and Tim Hardaway added 22 points for the Mavericks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
“We played bad,” said Doncic. “But we had a chance to go up and we hung in there.”