MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks were happy to get another win though they know they didn’t play up to their standards.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 17 rebounds, and the Bucks held off a strong challenge from short-handed Minnesota in a 106-104 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“Not playing our best but still finding a way to win is good,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But this isn’t the formula.”
Antetokounmpo got his 30th double-double in 33 games this season and Khris Middleton added 13 points despite shooting 5 for 18 as league-best Milwaukee hit just 42.6 percent of its shots overall and only 9 of 36 from 3-point range. Brook Lopez scored 11 points and Eric Bledsoe had 10.
“We missed a lot of good shots and came out a little slow,” Middleton said.
Shabazz Napier had 22 points to lead Minnesota, and Gorgui Deng scored 15, Josh Okogie added 12 and Jarret Culver 10.
The Timberwolves were playing without their two best players as Karl-Anthony Towns and Jeff Teague sat with knee injuries. They were also missing Treveon Graham and Andrew Wiggins, who were battling flu-like symptoms.
“That presented a lot of opportunities for a lot of guys and I thought a lot of guys stepped up,” Napier said.
Napier, starting in place of Teague, scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half, but then had just seven after the break.
Milwaukee slumped out of the gate. The Bucks had just four points through the first six minutes and didn’t take a lead until Lopez converted a three-point play to make it 31-29 with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
They went into halftime with a 52-51 lead despite shooting 34 percent from the floor. Minnesota connected at a 41.7 percent clip but made only 3 of 14 3-pointers while the Bucks knocked down 8 of 26 from beyond the arc.
A 15-6 run capped off by Antetokounmpo’s 3 out of halftime put the Bucks ahead by 10 and they took a 77-71 lead into the fourth.
Culver’s driving dunk over Lopez got the Timberwolves within a basket with 9:38 to play but he was called for a technical foul on the play that ultimately set up Kyle Korver’s 3 to put the Bucks back up by six, 87-81 with 8:45 remaining.
Minnesota responded with five straight points to pull within one but Antetokounmpo’s driving layup and Middleton’s 3 snuffed out the rally.
The Timberwolves mounted one last challenge in the closing minute as Dieng hit the first of two free throws to make it 1006-104 with 46.2 seconds left. Robert Covington grabbed Pat Connaughton’s missed layup, giving Minnesota the ball with 21 seconds left but after the Timberwolves used their last timeout, Dieng missed a 5.8-meter jumper with 3 seconds remaining.
“We were hoping to get Shabazz on a quick catch and go or we liked going for a win with (Covington) getting to the corner,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “There is a reason they are arguably the best defense team in the league too, they blew it up.”
Lakers 117, Suns 107
In Los Angeles, LeBron James had his eighth triple-double of the season, Anthony Davis had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and the West-leading Lakers opened the new year with a victory over Phoenix.
James finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in Los Angeles’ third straight victory that appeared well in hand by the end of a dominant first quarter. He had double-figure points and assists by halftime.
The Suns rallied in the fourth, getting within seven points after trailing by 36 earlier in the game. That forced the Lakers’ starters back in, and James steadied them with eight points to close out the win.
Devin Booker scored 32 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 26 for the Suns. Phoenix had won two in a row after losing eight straight.
Knicks 117, Trail Blazers 93
In New York, Mitchell Robinson made all 11 shots and had 22 points and Julius Randle added 22 points and 13 rebounds as the Knicks spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Madison Square Garden by beating Portland for their season-high third straight victory.
Anthony scored 26 points, his most since returning to the NBA, and was cheered before and during the game at the arena where he played 6 ½ seasons. But he was on the bench at the start of New York’s 14-0 run early in the fourth quarter that broke open the game.
Reggie Bullock made two 3-pointers during the spurt and scored 11 points in his Knicks debut. He signed with the team during the summer but hadn’t played because of a herniated disk.
Portland’s Damian Lillard was held to 11 points on 5-for-20 shooting after scoring 30 or more in the previous three games.
Magic 122, Wizards, 101
In Washington, D.J. Augustin scored a season-high 25 points, Nicola Vucevic added 20 points and 12 rebounds and Orlando snapped a four-game road losing streak.
Bradley Beal, who missed the previous two games with soreness in his right leg, led the Wizards with 27 points.
Evan Fournier had 18 points for Orlando. Markelle Fultz scored 16 and Terrence Ross 15.