MILWAUKEE • There was a period in the third quarter when the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks nearly buckled trying to halt a two-game National Basketball Association skid on Thursday.
Bojan Bogdanovic connected on back-to-back threes to pull the Indiana Pacers to within 67-64 with 5min 54sec left, leaving Khris Middleton to wonder if it was deja vu as "the last two games, we had trouble holding on to a lead".
That was until Giannis Antetokounmpo took over the show. The Bucks (49-16) then started a 13-0 run and never looked back, cruising to a 117-98 home win over the Pacers (42-24).
He scored 29 points and made 12 rebounds while his fellow All-Star Middleton added 27, as the first team to qualify for the play-offs got back on track after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season.
It was also the hosts' third victory in four match-ups against the visitors this term. Pacers coach Nate McMillan admitted that his team, who were paced by 22 points from Myles Turner, were overwhelmed by "too much Antetokounmpo, too much Middleton".
But the "Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo played down his efforts, saying: "We tried to play hard. We got back to our old habits, started defending and helping one another on defence."
Giannis Antetokounmpo's shooting percentage, as he made 10 of 17 baskets from the field.
He also told USA Today: "You're trying to give your all, you're trying to help your teammates in any way possible... my teammates did a great job just picking it up, playing with energy, rebounding the ball and responding the right way."
Middleton, recalling the 114-105 loss to the Suns on Monday, agreed and said: "It felt good. The Phoenix game was a rough one, probably the roughest one I can remember in my career here.
"But it happens. Just got to forget about it, bounce back and I did that tonight."
In Portland, Russell Westbrook and Paul George combined for 69 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 51-point showing by Damian Lillard to beat the Trail Blazers 129-121 in a tough overtime contest to sweep the season series.
They moved one game ahead of their hosts to take sole ownership of third place in the West, with the final stretch looming.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS