HOUSTON (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points and grabbed a season-high 21 rebounds to help the Milwaukee Bucks withstand a 42-point performance from James Harden and get a 116-109 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
In a matchup of the two early front-runners for MVP, Harden and his teammates were done in by a shooting slump late in the third quarter that spilled into the fourth and left them down by 15 points.
Milwaukee held a 13-point lead with about five minutes left before Houston used a 8-0 run, started by two 3-pointers from Harden, to cut the lead to 107-102. The Bucks got a layup from Eric Bledsoe before Harden scored the next four points to get Houston within 109-106 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws to push Milwaukee’s lead to four points with about 90 seconds left. Harden missed his third straight 3-pointer before Antetokounmpo added a layup on the other end to make it 112-106 with 40 seconds remaining.
Harden missed another 3 seconds later and the Bucks added four free throws down the stretch to secure the their seventh victory in eight games.
It was Harden’s sixth 40-point outing in the last eight games and he has scored 30 or more points in 14 straight games, which is the longest streak since Tracy McGrady did it in 2003. He shot 6 of 16 on 3-pointers to give him at least five in the last 11 games.
Houston center Clint Capela struggled, making just 4 of 16 shots a game after scoring a career-high 31 points in a win over the Nuggets on Monday. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Bucks scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to stretch a run they started in the third quarter to 15-0 and make it 98-83 with about 10 minutes left.
The Rockets got their first field goal since the 4:32 mark of the third quarter when P.J. Tucker made a 3-pointer a few seconds after that.
A weird play came after that when Antetokounmpo threw a pass across the lane and it bounced off Harden’s face and back at Antetokounmpo, which dished it to Ersan Ilyasova for a 3. Harden fell slowly to the court after he was hit but got up quickly and seemed to be OK.
Houston led by 6 at halftime after 23 points by Harden, but the Bucks opened the third quarter with an 11-3 run to take a 65-63 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Milwaukee got four points from Malcolm Brogdon and three from Antetokounmpo in that stretch.
The Rockets got five quick points from Gerald Green to start a 7-0 run later in the third that put them up 75-70.
The Bucks were down by 7 later in the quarter before using a 17-1 spurt to end the quarter and take a 92-83 lead into the fourth. That run included a 9-0 run in the last 1:19 of the quarter highlighted by a tip-in at the buzzer by Antetokounmpo.
Bucks: D.J. Wilson missed his second straight game with a bruised hip. … Brogdon finished with 24 points. … Khris Middleton added 15 points.
Rockets: Chris Paul missed his ninth game in a row with a strained left hamstring. … Eric Gordon missed his fifth straight game with a bruised right knee. … Houston shot 18 of 48 on 3-pointers.
Bucks: Visit Washington on Friday night.
Rockets: Host Cavaliers on Friday night.