By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis scored a season-high 44 points, LeBron James overtook Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 133-129 in a thriller Friday night.
Davis and James helped give Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee. Ham worked on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22, and the two former colleagues shared a big hug before the game.
Ham, an assistant coach on Milwaukee’s 2021 championship team, also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.
The Lakers withstood a 40-point night from Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists. The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.
During a fourth quarter that featured three ties and six lead changes, James put the Lakers ahead for good by sinking a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left.
James finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He improved his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place on the all-time list, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.
The Bucks missed two potential tying 3-point attempts in the final 20 seconds.
After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.
The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.
Los Angeles shot 53.6% from the floor against a Milwaukee team that led the NBA in defensive rating, though the Bucks did make two big stops that helped them tie the game in he fourth quarter.
The Bucks trailed 112-110 with 7½ minutes left when Antetokounmpo appeared to dribble the ball off his foot, leading to a steal by James. He raced toward the basket and seemed to have an easy layup until Antetokounmpo came from nowhere to block the shot.
Los Angeles still led by two when Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez blocked Davis on a dunk attempt. That led to Antetokounmpo’s dunk on the other end that tied the game 114-all with 6:10 left.
The teams spent the next few minutes exchanging baskets before James finally put the Lakers up for good.
Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.
Lakers: Davis also had 10 rebounds. He’s collected at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in nine straight games. … The Lakers opened a six-game trip. … James played his 1,381st career regular-season game to move into sole possession of 13th place. He had been tied with Clifford Robinson.
Bucks: Antetokounnmpo has scored at least 30 points in six straight games. … Portis had his 13th double-double. He entered Friday one of 12 NBA players averaging a double-double. Portis was the only one who isn’t a consistent starter.
Lakers: At Washington on Sunday.
Bucks: At Charlotte on Saturday in their first matchup of the season.
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