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Antetokounmpo outduels Embiid, Bucks beat 76ers 117-104

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer believes Giannis Antetokounmpo has done enough to merit a third MVP award.

Antetokounmpo says he’s more concerned about trying to win a championship.

“When you think about the MVP, it just puts pressure on yourself,” Antetokounmpo said after scoring 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the Bucks’ 117-104 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. “At the end of the day, I’m happy. I’m happy where I am in life. I’m happy I’m blessed with this talent. I’m happy I’m able to go out there every day and chase my dream that I had as a little kid, try to improve, go out there and play with an edge.”

Antetokounmpo outperformed fellow MVP candidate Joel Embiid as the Bucks moved one step closer to clinching the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The other main MVP candidate is Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who won the last two seasons.

The Bucks (56-22) have a two-game lead over Boston (54-24) with four games left. Boston won the season series with Milwaukee and has the tiebreaker. Philadelphia (51-27) is third in the East.

“We certainly feel like Giannis is the MVP,” Budenholzer said. “I think what our team has been able to do - we’ve still got some more work to have the best record in the league - but best player, best record. What he does on both ends of the court - the rebounding the blocked shots, the defense, the guarding on the perimeter - he does everything. Playmakes, attacks, gets to the free-throw line. We feel like he’s in the conversation or he should be the guy.”

Antetokounmpo won the MVP in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He’s averaging 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season.

“It’s a great compliment to be the Most Valuable Player in the league,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m happy that the last five years I’m able to be in that conversation. I’m happy I’m able to be consistent. I’m happy I’m able to help my team be great. But that’s the goal. That’s the only goal - try to keep putting myself in position to help my team be great.”

Antetokounmpo got plenty of help Sunday.

Brook Lopez scored 21 points, Khris Middleton had 19 and Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis each added 18 as the Bucks never trailed. Middleton also had nine assists.

Tyrese Maxey had 29 points to lead the 76ers. Embiid had 28.

“I thought they just kicked our butt,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers. “They were more aggressive, they were prepared. They beat us all the way around.”

The Bucks bounced back three nights after a 140-99 home loss to Boston that matched their most-lopsided defeat of the season.

Milwaukee made its first eight shots from the floor and 12 of its first 13. The Bucks led by as many as 20 during a first half in which they shot 67.4%.

“Hot shooting to start the game,” Embiid said. “They jumped on us and we didn’t have any answers.”

The 76ers got within four in the third quarter, but the Bucks soon regained a double-digit advantage and broke the game open by going on a 16-2 run that began late in the third and carried over to the final period.