Saturday, September 23, 2023

NBA Sunday confrontation: Bucks continue rolling, Lakers return swinging for a season finisher spot

Bucks continued their winning streak, now at 14 games and Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a stunning comeback on Sunday securing their third straight win as they strive to clinch a playoff spot

The Los Angeles Lakers staged a thrilling comeback on Sunday, erasing a 27-point deficit to grab a much-needed 111-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. The win was the Lakers’ third straight as they try to claw their way into playoff position.

Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers, scoring 30 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. LeBron James added 26 points, and unheralded Jarred Vanderbilt put in an impressive performance with 15 points, 17 rebounds, and four steals, including strong defense on Mavs star Luka Doncic.

The Lakers were in full flight in the third quarter when James went down hard, clutching his right ankle and heel in pain and saying he heard something “pop.” Despite the injury, James stayed in the game and drained a three-pointer to tie it up early in the fourth quarter, making the basket to give them their first lead since early in the first quarter.

Davis grabbed the rebound of a Vanderbilt miss and made a put-back dunk to stretch the lead with two minutes to play, and the Lakers held on for the win. Doncic scored 26 points, but 14 of those came in the first quarter, and Kyrie Irving scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Mavs but couldn’t assert himself in the final period.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham called his team’s biggest comeback win of the season “a huge shot in the arm.” “The way we were able to continue to scratch, claw, fight, compete,” he said. “There were some tough, depressing moments in that first half as they were building their lead. The guys never got discouraged. They had that look of frustration, but it wasn’t a look of defeatedness.”

Despite James’ injury, he said he’d monitor his ankle, but he never considered leaving the game with the Lakers on the upswing. “I thought we could steal one,” he said.

In Milwaukee, Jrue Holiday scored 33 points to help the Bucks shake off the absence of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in a 104-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Sunday matinee was minus some star power as Antetokounmpo sat out with a quadriceps contusion, and Kevin Durant’s Suns debut remained on hold as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer singled out Holiday’s defensive effort, which included a crucial late steal to rob the Suns’ Devin Booker. “His hands are phenomenal, his competitiveness is at a high high level, and he’s got a knack for getting deflections and steals at meaningful moments — and that’s what winners do,” Budenholzer told reporters.

Brook Lopez scored 22 points for Milwaukee, and his cutting layup put the Bucks up for good 102-100 with 28.4 seconds remaining, just seconds after Booker’s turnaround basket under heavy pressure had pulled the Suns level. Booker missed his first six shots but warmed up to lead the Suns with 24 points.

In Atlanta, Trae Young was the hero as he hit a floater as time expired to give the Hawks a 129-127 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets had trailed by as many as 18 points but managed to tie it up at 127-127 with 7.8 seconds left on the clock. However, Young’s clutch shot ensured the Hawks emerged victorious.

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