Clippers move up to ninth in the Western Conference after win

Clippers guard Lou Williams challenges Bucks center Tyler Zeller during second half action at Staples Center on March 27.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Most of the 21 million viewers who tuned into “60 Minutes” on Sunday night came for the Stormy Daniels interview.

Those who stayed beyond the adult film star’s appearance got an up-close look at Giannis Antetokounmpo, a burgeoning NBA superstar who is so athletically gifted and versatile that he leads the Milwaukee Bucks in scoring, rebounds, assists and blocked shots.

The segment on CBS’ news-magazine show included one clip in which the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Antetokounmpo, nicknamed “The Greek Freak,” jumped over a 6-10 New York Knicks defender to make a one-handed catch of a lob pass before slamming the ball through the hoop.

Among the other highlights of the 23-year-old with a 7-foot-3 wingspan were a dizzying array of spin moves and high-flying dunks and a no-look, 25-foot reverse pass between his legs that would have made an NFL long snapper proud.

This was the force the Clippers had to reckon with in Staples Center on Tuesday night, the one that nearly took a wrecking ball to their playoff hopes.


Except the Clippers wouldn’t let him. Antetokounmpo was dominant at times, scoring a game-high 26 points to go with nine rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots, but the Clippers caught fire midway through the fourth quarter and pulled out a 105-98 victory before a crowd of 19,068.

Trailing by five points with 8 minutes 17 seconds to play, the Clippers went on a 13-0 run during which Austin Rivers had seven points, a steal and an assist.

Rivers, Tobias Harris and Wesley Johnson each hit open three-pointers during the run, which gave the Clippers a 96-88 lead with 4:12 left.

Rivers had three points through three quarters and scored 10 in the fourth.

Harris scored six of his 19 in the fourth, and Lou Williams had 16 points in the game.

The Clippers, who made 15 of 28 three-pointers, moved into ninth place in the Western Conference, 11/2 games behind the eighth-place Minnesota Timberwolves with eight games left.

“It was a really tough mental night for us because we had a lot of guys struggling, we kind of lost our way,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We had to dig down and just figure out how to win tonight and fix what we didn’t do tomorrow.”

Antetokounmpo, who averages 27 points, made that difficult.

He blocked three shots, two by DeAndre Jordan, late in the second quarter, plays that led to a pair of fast-break baskets, as the Bucks took a 62-56 halftime lead. He scored 10 points in the third quarter, as the Bucks took an 82-78 lead into the fourth.

But the Clippers did just enough defensively, with Harris, Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace doing the dirty work, to prevent him from taking over the game.

“I think we guarded him as well as you can guard him,” Doc Rivers said. “When have a nickname and Freak is at the end of it, you’re probably pretty good, you know what I mean?

“He was good, but I liked how we guarded him.

“We clogged the paint on him. He’s just tough, man … he’s 7-foot-9.”

The Clippers sizzled out of the gate, making seven of seven three-point shots, including a career-high-tying four by Milos Teodosic, in the first 61/2 minutes.

Teodosic had 12 points in the first, his career high for a quarter. He made an around-the-back pass to Johnson for a corner three and an eye-popping, two-handed, over-the-head, no-look pass to Jordan for a dunk in the second.

But two minutes before halftime, Teodosic hobbled to the locker room because of plantar fascia in his left foot and did not return.

He will undergo an MRI test on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for at least two games.

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna