WASHINGTON (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated last season in a Game 7 on the road.
One more victory, and they won’t have to worry about that.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and Jrue Holiday nearly added a triple-double of his own as the Bucks took another step toward wrapping up the NBA’s best record with a 140-128 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
Holiday finished with 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and Bobby Portis added 19 points and 20 rebounds for Milwaukee.
The Bucks (57-22) moved to three games ahead of Boston with three to play, although the Celtics — who beat Milwaukee in that seven-game series last year — have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Boston lost a 103-101 thriller at Philadelphia on Tuesday, with ex-Buck P.J. Tucker hitting big 3-pointers down the stretch as Milwaukee players watched in their locker room.
After that game ended, Antetokounmpo downplayed the importance of home court just a little, noting that the Bucks were the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference when they won it all two years ago.
“At the end of the day, Boston is a beast, Philly is a beast, Cleveland is a beast, New York is a beast,” Antetokounmpo said.
Kendrick Nunn scored 24 points for the Wizards, who are out of playoff contention and played without Bradley Beal (left knee), Kristaps Porzingis (illness) and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle). Washington kept it close until late in the second quarter, when Milwaukee closed the half on a 13-5 run to lead 75-62.
It wasn’t close after that, with the Bucks leading by as many as 24 points. Milwaukee wasn’t at full strength either. Khris Middleton (right knee) missed the game, which was the first half of a back-to-back for the Bucks. Grayson Allen was also out after leaving Sunday’s game against Philadelphia with a sprained right ankle.
Pat Connaughton played only 5:40 because of what coach Mike Budenholzer said was a twisted right ankle. Budenholzer was hopeful it’s not too serious.
On a night when defense was in short supply, Antetokounmpo made an incredible chase-down block on Nunn in the fourth quarter with his team up 15 — although Corey Kispert followed up with a layup for the Wizards.
“His competitive fire, his competitive spirit, it’s the best,” Budenholzer said. “A lot of guys I think don’t go get that. Not his physical ability to go get it, but just the competitiveness and the willingness to try. He’s very special that way.”
Antetokounmpo nearly had his triple-double after three quarters but needed one more assist.
Washington (34-45) is now in a three-way tie for 11th place in the Eastern Conference with Orlando and Indiana.
Bucks: Jevon Carter (left foot) did not play. … Portis has 23 double-doubles off the bench this season, the most in the league. … Antetokounmpo had eight turnovers. … Jae Crowder scored 19 points. … Milwaukee shot 23 of 42 from 3-point range.
Wizards: In addition to the Beal-Porzingis-Kuzma trio, Washington was also missing Monte Morris (right ankle), Delon Wright (illness) and Deni Avdija (left elbow). Jordan Goodwin, Johnny Davis and Anthony Gill, who had combined for 10 starts all season, were all in the starting lineup. … Davis, a first-round draft pick last year, scored a career-high 20 points. … Gafford picked up four fouls in the first half.
Bucks: Host Chicago on Wednesday night.
Wizards: At Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.