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Proving mettle

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Los Angeles, Tuesday

Milwaukee’s two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 43 points Monday, powering the Bucks to a 125-115 NBA victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Antetokounmpo connected on 17 of 24 shots from the field. He made a brace of three pointers and was simply unstoppable in the paint.

His was just one of the outstanding performances on a night that featured a 40-point outburst from Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum and a triple-double for Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.

Antetokounmpo set the tone early in Milwaukee, scoring 30 of the Bucks’ 67 first-half points.

Detroit managed to trim the deficit to 118-110 with 2:38 left to play, but Antetokounmpo stopped their momentum with a block of a driving Sekou Doumbouya shot, then grabbed the rebound of teammate Donte DiVincenzo’s miss for a put-back basket that effectively ended the Pistons’ comeback bid.

“The blocked shot and the put-back was big,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said, adding that he wouldn’t have liked to see the deficit whittled further.

Detroit, playing without star Blake Griffin, also saw rookie Killian Hayes go down in the third quarter with a hip injury that kept him out the rest of the game.

Boston’s Tatum scored 21 of his season-best 40 in the second quarter as the Celtics rallied from an early deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors 126-114.

Tatum connected on 11 of 19 shots from the field and was a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line as he fell one point shy of matching his career best.

The first meeting of the teams since Boston eliminated Toronto in the second round of the playoffs in September was in Tampa, Florida, where the Raptors are based, amid continuing coronavirus restrictions on travel to Canada.

The Dallas Mavericks won a Texas tussle with the Rockets in Houston on the back of Doncic’s first triple-double of the season.

Doncic, who sat out Sunday with a quadriceps contusion, returned with a vengeance with 33 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists as Dallas held off a late Rockets push for a 113-100 victory.

The Slovenian star, still just 21, notched his 26th career triple-double. Tim Hardway Jr. added 30 points off the bench for Dallas, who led by as many as 16 in the third quarter.

The Rockets, with 23 points from Christian Wood and 21 from James Harden, tied it up with 10 minutes remaining, but the Mavericks relentlessly pulled away again.

While Mavs coach Rick Carlisle conceded that Doncic came into the season “behind the curve” on his conditioning, he said his young star is clearly going in the right direction.

“You can tell on the floor,” Carlisle said. “You can see that he’s getting better and better as each day goes by.”

The Philadelphia 76ers improved their league-leading record to 6-1 with a 118-101 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Tobias Harris scored 22 points to lead seven Sixers players in double figures in the wire-to-wire win.

Joel Embiid added 14 points and 11 rebounds, Danny Green contributed 13 points, and Ben Simmons had 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Philadelphia. -AFP

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