East Notes: Bucks, Damian Lillard, Magic, Paolo Banchero, Hawks


The Bucks moved to 1.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers in the Central Division and for second in the East overall after Thursday’s win over the Nets.Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA

It’s not much, but that’s the biggest lead Milwaukee has had over Cleveland in some time.

Better yet, star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo returned after missing two games with a hamstring issue.

“You try to control what you can control,” Antetokounmpo told reporters. “Things like this are going to pop up now and then. Kind of unexpected, but at the end of the day, these are the cards you’ve been dealt, and you just have to keep on figuring it out, keep on playing through pain, playing through adversity.”

  • Damian Lillard came alive at the end of this one, as he so often does, including a big 3-pointer with 41 seconds left. But it was his defense that earned praise from Bucks coach Doc Rivers. “Dame defensively was phenomenal tonight, all game,” Rivers said.
  • Lillard on that very topic: “I haven’t been known as a defender, but down the stretch of games, I’ve always been able to have a moment or do what I needed to defensively.”


In case you missed it, the Magic have secured a winning record for just the second time in 12 years, courtesy of Thursday’s home win over the Pelicans.

Center Paolo Banchero not only scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but also passed for 11 assists.

“Teams are loading up on him, defending him in different ways. He’s making the right plays, the right pass, not forcing the game,” coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters. “He reads what the defense is doing, he adjusts as the game is going on and then finds his time to attack. That’s what an All-Star does.”

  • Guard Gary Harris Jr. was forced to leave the game with a sore right foot. The Magic had yet to offer any updates as of this writing.
  • Orlando (42-28) already has secured at least a spot in the play-in tournament. But most everyone suspects they will finish with a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference. They entered Friday in fourth, a half-game ahead of the Knicks.


The Hawks clearly gave it their all, but ended up proving to be helpless to contain the hot-shooting Suns in Thursday’s road loss.

“I think we competed the whole game, which is the most important thing,” coach Quin Snyder told reporters. “They shot over 50% from three as a team, which is tough to handle, especially against a team that’s also so good from mid-range.”

  • All-Star guard Trae Young missed his 13th consecutive game with a torn finger ligament. The Hawks are 6-7 in his absence.
  • Nonetheless, Atlanta (30-39) still up 4.5 games on the Nets for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, with just 13 to go.

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