THIS WEEK IN THE NBA BY MATT VE­LAZQUEZ

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Nba -

TOP BUCKS PLAYER

Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo kicked off the past week of games with one of his best out­puts of the sea­son. He knocked down clutch shots to lead the Bucks to a come­back vic­tory over the Wash­ing­ton Wizards, fin­ish­ing with 34 points, 12 re­bounds, seven as­sists, two steals and a block in nearly 41 min­utes. Over the rest of the week, he av­er­aged 25.0 points, 8.3 re­bounds and 3.8 as­sists as the Bucks went 2-2.

BUCKS LOOK AHEAD

The Bucks en­ter the sec­ond-half of their sea­son with a daunting stretch over the next week. They start with a rare, back-to-back set of af­ter­noon games against two of the teams ahead of them in the Eastern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, first fac­ing Mi­ami at noon Sun­day be­fore mak­ing their sec­ond visit to Wash­ing­ton for a 1 p.m. Mon­day game. The Bucks will then get a sec­ond dose of the Heat at the BMO Har­ris Bradley Cen­ter on Wed­nes­day be­fore mak­ing their first trip to Philadel­phia to face the young, up-and-com­ing 76ers on Satur­day night.

BUCKS QUOTE

Guard Mal­colm Brog­don on hold­ing the Golden State War­riors to 5-of-15 shooting from three-point range: “That’s a team that beats mainly ev­ery­body by shooting the three ball. We didn’t let them do that tonight, but we let them beat us by them play­ing their sys­tem and be­ing more dis­ci­plined than us.”

TOP NBA PLAYER

Los Angeles Clip­pers guard Lou Wil­liams has made a name for him­self by be­ing an in­cred­i­ble scorer and av­er­ag­ing a ca­reer-high 23.1 points per game for the in­jury-rid­dled Clip­pers. This week he went above and be­yond all ex­pec­ta­tions. Over four games, Wil­liams av­er­aged 34.3 points while mak­ing nearly 5 three-point­ers a game and shooting 46.3% from long range. His crown­ing achieve­ment was drop­ping a ca­reer-high 50 points on the War­riors on Wed­nes­day, lead­ing the Clip­pers to a 125-106 win in Oakland. TOP NBA TEAM

The Min­nesota Timberwolves are hit­ting their stride. Jimmy But­ler's tenac­ity, scor­ing and lead­er­ship have started to el­e­vate the team, and their young stars Karl-An­thony Towns and An­drew Wig­gins are mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions on both ends of the court. De­fen­sively, Min­nesota has re­ally demon­strated im­prove­ment over the past month.

NBA RANK­INGS

Top 10: 1. Golden State War­riors, 2. Bos­ton Celtics, 3. Toronto Rap­tors, 4. Hous­ton Rockets, 5. Min­nesota Timberwolves, 6. San An­to­nio Spurs, 7. Cleve­land Cava­liers, 8. Mi­ami Heat, 9. Wash­ing­ton Wizards, 10. Oklahoma City Thun­der.

Mid­dle 10: 11. Port­land Trail Blazers,

12. Denver Nuggets, 13. Detroit Pis­tons, 14. New Orleans Pelicans, 15. Milwaukee Bucks, 16. In­di­ana Pac­ers,

17. Los Angeles Clip­pers, 18. Philadel­phia 76ers, 19. Charlotte Hornets, 20. New York Knicks.

Bot­tom 10: 21. Dal­las Mavericks, 22. Utah Jazz, 23. Phoenix Suns, 24. Brook­lyn Nets, 25. Chicago Bulls, 26. Los Angeles Lak­ers, 27. Mem­phis Grizzlies, 28. Sacramento Kings, 29. Atlanta Hawks, 30. Or­lando Magic. ONE MAN'S OPIN­ION

I sub­mit­ted my of­fi­cial All-Star Game bal­lot on Satur­day morn­ing. Like the fan vot­ing, I was only asked to se­lect the starters in each con­fer­ence, pick­ing two back­court play­ers and three front­court play­ers.

Here's what I came up with:

Eastern Con­fer­ence: Kyrie Irv­ing, DeMar DeRozan, Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo, LeBron James and Joel Em­biid.

Those are the five play­ers who are ac­tu­ally lead­ing the fan vote. Western Con­fer­ence: James Har­den, Stephen Curry, Kevin Du­rant, An­thony Davis and LaMar­cus Aldridge. I didn't 100% go with the fans this time, though it was close. Be­fore his in­jury, Har­den was with James in the MVP race, so he was a shoe-in. Curry and Du­rant have been out­stand­ing. The last two spots came down to three play­ers — Davis, Aldridge and DeMar­cus Cousins.

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