Greeted with MVP chants, ‘Greek Freak’ powers Bucks past struggling Pelicans

CJ McCollum
McCollum stars for Portland’s victory.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 points and Khris Middleton added 23 as the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks improved to 51-17 Tuesday with a 130-113 victory at New Orleans.

The “Greek Freak” was greeted with chants of “M-V-P” by Pelicans supporters, signaling their support of his being named NBA Most Valuable Player for his outstanding season — averaging 27.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and 1.2 steals a game.

“I definitely heard it. It’s amazing. I think it’s the third time it has happened on the road,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s nice that fans from the other team realize how good of a team we are and the work we’ve put in.”

The Bucks have not won a playoff series since 2001 and haven’t won an NBA title since 1971 but are on pace to own the home-field edge throughout the NBA playoffs.

Elfrid Payton had a triple double with 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for the Pelicans, who also got 21 points and 12 rebounds from Anthony Davis.

Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James scored a game-high 36 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 123-107 victory at Chicago.

Down 60-55 at half-time, the Lakers outscored the Bulls 43-24 in the third quarter and rolled to victory, improving to 31-36 but still 6.5 games behind Utah for the last Western Conference playoff berth.

Cameroonian big man Joel Embiid scored the final six points in the last minute to power the Philadelphia 76ers over visiting Cleveland 106-99.

After a dunk with 51 seconds to play, he blocked a shot, grabbed two rebounds and made four free throws in the dying seconds to lift the Sixers to victory, staying level with Indiana for third in the Eastern Conference at 43-25.

Embiid finished with 17 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots while Australia’s Ben Simmons added 26 points, 10 rebounds and eighth assists for the 76ers.

Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic scored 24 points to lead Indiana six players in double figures as the Pacers beat New York 103-98. The Knicks fell to an NBA-worst 13-55 with their eighth consecutive defeat.

Canadian Jamal Murray scored 30 points and Serbian Nikola Jokic added 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to spark the Denver Nuggets over Minnesota 133-107.

The Nuggets unleashed a season-high 40 assists on the Timberewolves and won to reach 44-22, one game behind Western Conference leader Golden State.