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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks pushed the pace and kept their composure late in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Hawks struggled to regain their footing in the closing minutes after their best ball-handler fouled out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates capitalized for a 122-117 win on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, and Khris Middleton added 23 points for Milwaukee, which finished off the worst team in the Eastern Conference with a game-ending 11-5 run.

“We just trust one another, and we focused on our strengths,” Antetokounmpo said. “Then we were able to make some shots and then get multiple stops in a row.”

Two key stops late ended with lob passes downcourt to point guard Eric Bledsoe, who handed off the ball each time to teammates for easy transition buckets.

The Hawks didn’t have an answer after Dennis Schroder fouled out with 2:46 left. To make matters worse for Atlanta, Schroder was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year.

“It’s (Dennis’) sixth foul, it’s a shooting foul. You compound it with getting a technical,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Just giving up points when it’s that close, when it’s that tight. It’s hard. It’s a learning experience for all of us.”

Taurean Prince tied a career high with 38 points on 13-of-26 shooting, while Schroder finished with 18 points.

But his technical foul turned out to be a turning point in the game.

“It can’t happen. I’ve just got to be quiet and go to the bench and be better,” Schroder said.

The Bucks needed this victory to keep up in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race after an ugly loss on Wednesday at 49-loss Orlando, with the Cleveland Cavaliers up next on Monday.

“That’s important at the end of the day, closing the game out and getting the win,” coach Joe Prunty said.

Milwaukee had the early comeback, rallying from an 11-point deficit to take a 56-50 halftime lead after figuring out Atlanta’s effective pick-and-roll game.


Hawks: Second in the league in forcing 15.6 turnovers a game, Atlanta got Milwaukee to cough up just 12 on the night. … Prince had averaged 28.3 points over his previous three games. … F John Collins left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle.

Bucks: C Tyler Zeller missed the game with lingering back soreness. … G Brandon Jennings played 17 minutes and scored two points in his first home game since being signed by his former team to a 10-day contract last week. … Jabari Parker was assessed a technical foul late in the second quarter after appearing to get in the face of Atlanta’s John Collins after dunking over the forward. Parker had 11 points off the bench in the first half on 5-of-9 shooting.


Collins got hurt after landing on Antetokounmpo’s right leg while attempting a 3. Officials called a flagrant foul on Antetokounmpo, who said after the game there was no intent on his part. Antetokounmpo had his back turned on Collins to watch the ball, and he did not appear to move when Collins landed on Antetokounmpo’s right foot.

“I think it’s just the rule this year, when you are going to contest,” Budenholzer said. “I don’t think it was anything intentional by Giannis. It’s just one of those unfortunate plays.”

Parker added 15 points off the bench for Milwaukee and tormented the Hawks with two thunderous dunks in the first half. Five weeks after returning from a knee injury, the fourth-year forward is showing that he can once again serve as Antetokounmpo’s frontcourt running mate.

“I’m just playing like I’m practicing,” Parker said. “Right now, I know where my shots are going to be. … It hasn’t been easy, but it has been working.”

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INDIANAPOLIS — We’re just days away from general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur taking their bulldozers to the New York Giants’ offensive line. When they’re done it will barely resemble the unit that took the field to start last season.

The first move when free agency opens on March 14 could be signing Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell. It won’t be easy — there will be competition — and it won’t be cheap, but the feeling around the league is that it will happen.

“Gettleman loves Norwell,” according to one source.

Gettleman signed the All-Pro guard as an undrafted free agent in 2014 with the Carolina Panthers. Four years later, there is a growing sense they will be reunited. The belief is that offers to Norwell could be in the range of $13 million per year with total guarantees over $30 million, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the guard market.

It is further proof that guards don’t come cheap. Just last year the Cleveland Browns paid Kevin Zeitler $60 million over five years. That is $12 million per season.

Norwell should get more. The NFL’s salary cap is expected to increase another six percent this year. Zeitler’s $12 million last season will probably have to be closer to $13 million this year, and Norwell might even be considered a better player.

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These exorbitant numbers are normally reserved for left tackles. Only four offensive tackles average more than $12 million per season on their current deals. No right tackle averages $12 million.

Norwell is believed to be the best of the bunch at guard this offseason. He’s known as a mauling run blocker and solid pass-blocker. His 88.8 Pro Football grade was third among all guards.

“He’s really, really good,” according to one scout. “He even moves better than you’d think.”

Another personnel evaluator wasn’t quite as sold. He called Norwell “OK” but conceded he would be extremely well compensated as the best available option in a weak offensive line class.

Giants guard/tackle Justin Pugh may be the second-best option as a free agent guard.

This is where the NFL stands. Quality offensive linemen are hard to find. They’re even rarer on the free-agent market. And with interior rushers such as Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, Calais Campbell and Gerald McCoy consistently pummeling quarterbacks on the inside, quality guards can command major paydays.

That bodes well for Norwell and Pugh. It even means the next tier of players such as Tennessee’s Josh Kline, Indianapolis’ Jack Mewhort, Josh Sitton and the Giants’ D.J. Fluker should do well.

Guards are a valuable commodity these days, and the Giants are committed to finding upgrades this offseason. Gettleman seems intent on improving the interior of the Giants’ offensive line. He noted last week that the New Orleans Saints had a dominant guard tandem during their Super Bowl run several years back and again last year during their resurgence.

The Giants are hoping to replicate that approach. But with veterans John Jerry (known as a better pass-blocker than run blocker) and John Greco the only guards under contract, there is plenty of work to be done.

Improving the running game and offensive line is a priority for Gettleman this offseason. He appears set to start at the guard position, with Norwell the intended target at a hefty price.

“At the end of the day, if it’s keeping your quarterback upright and out of the hospital, there are a bunch of guys that are getting paid. They are getting paid,” Gettleman said last week. “If you think about it, they’re close to the quarterback and whatever.”

Price be damned. Is $12-$13 million too much for a guard?

“Listen, it’s the market. Is that car worth $150,000?” Gettleman asked rhetorically. “If somebody buys it, it’s worth it. You know what I mean? It’s no different.”
Whether Pugh fits into the mix as well remains more of a mystery. It would be difficult for the Giants to afford two high-priced guards. Pugh is more likely being viewed as a contingency plan if they don’t land Norwell or a right tackle option. Regardless, Pugh is expected to do well on the market. There will be plenty of interest, and there’s a good chance he will top $10 million per season.

He’s just not likely do as well as Norwell, who is 26 and coming off his best professional season at exactly the right time. He was named an All-Pro right before free agency in a year when his former boss is in a new job and looking for a player of his caliber at his position.

Consider it the perfect free-agent guard storm, one that should make him a very rich man wherever he lands.