EditorsNote: minor edits
Giannis Antetokounmpo collected 31 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists to lift the host Milwaukee Bucks to a wire-to-wire 119-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
Antetokounmpo shot 12 of 17 from the field for the Bucks, who have won 21 of 24 games since dropping a 121-109 decision to Philadelphia on Christmas Day. The reigning NBA MVP made 8 of 27 shots for 18 points in that contest before erupting for 36 points and 20 rebounds in Milwaukee's 112-101 victory over the 76ers on Feb. 6.
Khris Middleton added 25 points and nine rebounds as the Bucks sent road-challenged Philadelphia to its sixth straight loss away from home.
Joel Embiid scored 12 of his 17 points in the second quarter, however a porous shooting display (5 of 18) and early foul trouble prevented the 76ers' All-Star from establishing any semblance of rhythm.
To make matters worse for Philadelphia was the early departure of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who aggravated a back injury on a layup midway into the first quarter. He promptly retreated to the locker room and did not return, scoring just five points in five minutes.
Two quick fouls on Embiid to begin the third quarter gave him four for the evening, a predicament that allowed the Bucks to exploit the interior of the 76ers' defense.
The Sixers collapsed in a bid to keep Antetokounmpo under wraps, allowing Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo and Middleton open looks from beyond the arc as the Bucks turned a six-point halftime lead into a 93-73 advantage after three quarters.
Antetokounmpo got in on the 3-point party, calmly sinking an uncontested shot from distance early in the fourth quarter. The crowd promptly serenaded him with "MVP" chants.
Philadelphia didn't do itself any favors with its dismal 4-for-19 performance from 3-point range in the first half, allowing Milwaukee to seize a 56-50 lead at intermission.
Antetokounmpo scored nine points to stake the Bucks to a 31-21 advantage after the first quarter before the 76ers cut their deficit to one. Milwaukee answered with a 10-2 run to build its lead to 47-38 with 5:04 remaining in the second.
--Field Level Media