James Harden may have poured in 42 points for the Rockets but it was Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks who took the 116-109 win … and did the Greek Freak ever throw it in Harden’s face.
The two favourites for MVP honours went toe-to-toe in Houston and despite Harden’s big scoring night it was Antetokounmpo who reigned with 27 points, 21 rebounds and five assists.
And it was one of the latter that stole the show — it even featured what could be called a Harden flop.
Spinning with the ball in hand Antetokounmpo threw it hard across the court, straight at Harden, who was floored when it hit his head.
The ball bounced back to an unmoved Greek Freak, who then dished it to Ersan Ilyasova, who nailed the triple for one of the plays of the season as social media had a field day.
Here it is from the reverse angle.
Not since Denver’s Chauncey Billups inbounded off Kobe Bryant’s back in game three of the 2009 Western Conference finals has a ball been used as such a weapon in the lead up to a basket.
Some even suggested it may as well have been the MVP trophy he hurled at Harden.
Either way the Bucks withstood a late Houston charge to hold on for the win and improve their record to an East-leading 29-11 as Malcolm Brogdon scored 24 and Khris Middleton added 15.
For the Rockets, Harden was backed up by 18 points and 13 rebounds from Clint Capela and 16 points from Gerald Green off the bench.
‘DIRTY’ DELLY FINDS OLD FORM AS CAVS LOSE TO PELS
The battling Cleveland Cavaliers managed to take it to the New Orleans Pelicans for two-and-a-half quarters in the Big Easy but they simply couldn’t contain Pelicans star Anthony Davis down the stretch.
The Cavs even led 63-59 at the half.
As the game wore on Davis’ size and athleticism became a big factor. The young Cavs simply could not guard him as he and the Pels exploded late to run out 140-124 winners.
Davis finished with 38 points and 13 rebounds.
On the plus side for the Cavaliers, Dellavedova had his best night since returning to the city where he won a championship with LeBron James in the 2015/16 season.
The Aussie guard came off the bench and sparked the Cavs with 10 first quarter points and finished with 17 points and seven assists in 19 minutes on six of eight shooting.
Not that Delly’s best game since being traded from Milwaukee didn’t come without some controversy.
With two minutes left in the third Dellavedova went up for a three and caught the face of Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson with his elbow.
It looked like the Aussie leant into the rookie and sent him crashing to the court.
The crowd hurled down boos on Dellavedova and the officials reviewed it for a flagrant foul but none was called and Dellavedova went to the free-throw line.
PHILLY TRAINWRECK DERAILS IN WASHINGTON
Earlier in the day the Philadelphia 76ers were described as a “trainwreck” by NBA analyst Bill Simmons and they didn’t do anything to dissuade that opinion in Washington.
One day after routing the Wizards, Philadelphia had the favour returned in a 123-106 loss, despite double-doubles from Ben Simmons (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Joel Embiid (35 points, 14 rebounds).
The Sixers looked listless from the get-go as Bradley Beal ignited the Wizards with 34 points on 13 from 21 shooting, including six of 11 from beyond the arc.
At one point Beal scored 14 straight points in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia shot just eight of 27 from three-point range, going three of 20 in the first three quarters.
In truth the Sixers were never really in the game and from the moment Trevor Ariza delivered a dunk to give the home side a 10-8 lead in the first quarter, it was all downhill as Philadelphia’s losing streak in the nation’s capital stretched to five years.