Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket during the game against the Orlando Magic on January 11, 2021 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo shook off foul trouble to score 13 of his 22 points in the second half Monday as the Bucks pulled away for a 121-99 NBA victory over the Magic in Orlando.

Antetokounmpo, the two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player, showed no sign of the back spasms that forced him out of the Bucks win over Cleveland on Saturday, adding six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.

Khris Middleton scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Bobby Portis chipped in 20 points off the bench as the Bucks notched their fifth win in six games.

Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic led all scorers with 28 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough in the first meeting between the teams since Milwaukee ousted Orlando in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in August.

Orlando forward Aaron Gordon threw down a dunk over Antetokounmpo early in the fourth to pull the Magic within 88-86.

Antetokounmpo responded with a three-pointer and assisted on Portis’s shot from beyond the arc as the Bucks rebuilt their lead.

After Gordon’s dunk, the Bucks scored 22 of the next 24 points as they put the game out of reach.

“He’s growing in all ways and it was just two huge plays, because the momentum could’ve swung on the dunk,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo’s late-game effort.

In Charlotte, Gordon Hayward scored 28 of his game-high 34 points in the first quarter to fuel the Hornets’ 109-88 victory over the New York Knicks.

The Hornets notched their fourth straight victory — longer than any streak they put together last season.

They got off to a brisk start, leading by as many as 17 points in the first half and never trailing in the second.

The Washington Wizards notched their first home win of the season, downing the Phoenix Suns 128-107.

With star guard Russell Westbrook absent with a quadriceps injury, Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 33 points. Chris Paul added 14 points and 11 assists.

Beal, who had totalled 101 points in his previous two games, was back in action after missing Saturday’s contest against Miami because of the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols.

But the ongoing pandemic was having an effect on the young season, with Monday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans postponed, along with a scheduled Tuesday clash between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.

The latest postponements will make for three straight days of lost games, after Miami’s matchup with the Celtics in Boston on Sunday was called off because the Heat were unable field a minimum eight players due to Covid-19 issues.

Some of the enforced absences were due to positive or inconclusive Covid-19 tests, and others to the league’s stringent contact tracing and isolation of possibly exposed players.

While NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said before the season started in December that the league anticipated postponements, the league said Monday that it would meet with the National Basketball Players Association to discuss modifications in the safety protocols agreed by both parties.

The Philadelphia 76ers, among the teams feeling the pinch with five players sidelined by coronavirus protocols, endured a third straight defeat, 112-94 to the Hawks in Atlanta.

Hawks point guard Trae Young led all scorers with 26 points and Atlanta took a 32-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, back after missing one game with a tight back, scored 14 points with 11 rebounds but played less than four minutes in the third quarter and sat out the fourth.

Source: Manila Bulletin (