The Associated PressHOUSTON (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to join in on the debate about whether he should be an early favorite for MVP after he led the Milwaukee Bucks to a victory over the Houston Rockets and last year’s MVP James Harden on Wednesday.
The rising young star was just happy his team was leaving Houston with a win.
“All I care about is winning,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know by winning and doing whatever it takes to help your teammates and leaving everything out on the floor everything will take care of itself, the titles and all that.”
Antetokounmpo had 27 points and grabbed a season-high 21 rebounds to help the Bucks withstand a 42-point performance from Harden in a 116-109 win.
In this matchup of early front-runners for MVP, Harden and his teammates were done in by a shooting slump late in the third quarter that spilled into the fourth and left them down by 15 points.
“We just got stagnant and defensively I think we allowed 38 points in that quarter — way too many — especially at home and so there you go,” Harden said. “We couldn’t get out in transition. We couldn’t get to where we want to go because we couldn’t get any stops.”
Milwaukee held a 13-point lead with about five minutes left before Houston used an 8-0 run, started by two 3-pointers from Harden, to cut the lead to 107-102. The Bucks got a layup from Eric Bledsoe before Harden scored the next four points to get Houston within 109-106 with 2½ minutes left.
Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws to push Milwaukee’s lead to four points with about 90 seconds left. Harden missed his third straight 3-pointer before Antetokounmpo added a layup on the other end to make it 112-106 with 40 seconds remaining.
Harden missed another 3 seconds later and the Bucks added four free throws down the stretch to secure the their seventh victory in eight games.
It was Harden’s sixth 40-point outing in the last eight games and he has scored 30 or more points in 14 straight games, which is the longest streak since Tracy McGrady did it in 2003. He shot 6 of 16 on 3-pointers to give him at least five in the last 11 games.
Houston center Clint Capela struggled, making just 4 of 16 shots. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Coach Mike D’Antoni credited Milwaukee’s big defensive duo of Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo for making things tough on Capela.