PHOENIX (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points, Brook Lopez added 21 and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks clinched a playoff spot by beating the Phoenix Suns 116-104 on Tuesday night to become the first team to 50 wins this season.
The Bucks pulled away late for their 21st win in 23 games and are the first team to secure a postseason berth. The Suns have dropped three straight.
The Suns trailed by nine points at halftime but cut the deficit to 85-84 heading to the fourth after Devin Booker hit a mid-range jumper at the third quarter buzzer.
Cam Payne hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Suns up 90-87, which was their first lead of the second half. The game stayed tight for the next several minutes but the Bucks took the lead for good when Pat Connaughton hit a corner 3 for a 100-97 advantage with 6:30 remaining.
Antetokounmpo added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Lopez shot 10 of 14 from the field and added 10 rebounds. The Bucks closed the game on a 24-9 run.
Booker led the Suns with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting. Deandre Ayton had 19 points and eight rebounds despite playing just 26 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Bucks led 57-48 at halftime. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 20 points while Booker and Ayton both had 10 for the Suns. Phoenix shot just 39.2% from the field in the first half.
Suns forward Torrey Craig lost a tooth in the third quarter after taking an inadvertent elbow from Antetokounmpo. He laid on the floor for a few seconds before finding his tooth on the ground, which he picked up and took to the bench.
Bucks: Guards Grayson Allen (sore foot), Goran Dragic (sore knee) and Khris Middleton (right knee injury management) all missed the game. … Signed C Meyers Leonard to a contract for the remainder of the season. Leonard has played in five games while on two 10-day contracts, averaging 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds. … F Jae Crowder returned to Phoenix for the first time since being included in the trade that brought Kevin Durant to the Suns. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left that gave the Bucks a 13-point lead.
Suns: Durant missed his fourth straight game because of a sprained left ankle. He’s played just three games since coming to the team via trade in February. … Hosted a 60th straight sellout crowd. … Booker has scored at least 20 points in 21 straight games. That’s the third-longest active streak in the NBA behind Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum.
Bucks: At Indiana on Thursday.
Suns: Host Orlando on Thursday.
AP NBA: and
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