LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Eric Bledsoe stole the spotlight from the MVP front-runners, and the Milwaukee Bucks coasted to a 108-94 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets on Tuesday (March 26).
Bledsoe paired 23 points with seven assists and was the catalyst during a third-quarter run that enabled the Bucks to seize control. He scored 16 consecutive points for Milwaukee during one stretch, helping the Bucks stretch a five-point lead into a 79-65 advantage with 4min 24sec left in the third.
Bledsoe hit four three-pointers during that spurt, individually leveling the knockout blow.
Rockets guard James Harden and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo were relatively quiet. Harden posted 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but shot 1 of 9 from behind the arc after going 24 of 42 from deep over his three previous games while averaging 48.7 points.
Antetokounmpo tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds with five turnovers. Like Harden, he was the focal point of the defence. While the Bucks stubbornly forced Harden to his off (right) hand, the Rockets rotated several defenders on Antetokounmpo, enticing him to hoist perimeter shots.
Collectively, the Rockets struggled from the deep. With Harden, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker shooting a combined 2 for 22 from beyond the arc, Houston finished 16 of 52 from three-point range including an unsightly 1 of 13 in the third quarter while the Bucks pulled away.
Harden opened that period with a three-pointer that brought the Rockets within 58-56 at the 11:44 mark. They went 0 of 12 afterward.
Milwaukee, 8-3 over its past 11 games, placed five players in double figures.
Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez scored 13 points apiece, with Lopez going 3 of 5 on 3-point attempts. Pat Connaughton added 14 off the bench. Sterling Brown pulled down 11 rebounds for the Bucks, who posted a 60-46 edge on the glass.
Chris Paul added 19 points and nine assists for Houston while Clint Capela posted 17 points and 11 rebounds. While Danuel House Jr. chipped in 15 points off the bench, Gordon shot 0 of 7 from the floor and wound up with no points, and Tucker was 1 of 9 for three points.
Houston committed a modest 13 turnovers, but nine came in the second quarter to fuel the Bucks' 38-point period.