The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets (86-83) on Thursday and approached 2-1 in the semifinals of the NBA Eastern conference held by Antetokounmpo and Middleton, authors of almost 80% of their points.
Khris Middleton, with 35 points, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 33, threw the Bucks behind their backs in front of their audience to avoid a 3-0 aggregate score that no one has come back in an NBA playoffs.
The two Milwaukee figures accounted for 79% of their team’s points, the highest percentage of any teammate in a playoff game.
“We’ve been doing this for the last eight years,” Antetokounmpo said of his partnership with Middleton. “We were able to compete, to get our teammates involved and to help the team to victory. I hope we can do it in the fourth game as well.
For the Nets, who still don’t have the injured James Harden, Kevin Durant had 30 points and 11 rebounds but missed one last, very forced 3-pointer to tie the game.
The 32-year-old forward had previously scored three three-point shots with which he surpassed Argentine Manu Ginobili (324) as the sixth player in history with the most triples in the playoffs.
This Thursday marked the two-year anniversary of Durant’s serious injury to the Achilles tendon during the 2019 Finals with the Warriors, from which he has recovered spectacularly.
Teammate Kyrie Irving, the Nets’ third superstar, had a low-key night with 22 points and 9/22 shooting from the field.
“They did what they were supposed to do, come out aggressive,” Irving said. But we had our options in the end. The game ended possession by possession, the two teams battling. It was a good old-style playoff game. “
Pressured by the two convincing losses in Brooklyn, New York, the Bucks started Thursday at full speed, propelled by the public ignition of the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo, who this week handed over the baton to Nikola Jokic as the league’s MVP (Most Valuable Player), added 7 points, with two fierce dunks, in the Bucks’ opening 9-0 run.
Trying to get the game back on track soon, Antetokounmpo and Middleton took care of each other for the Bucks’ 30 points in the first quarter, 15 each.
The Bucks seemed thrown by opening 21 points until the Nets decided it was time to defend more intensely.
Steve Nash’s team only allowed 3 points in 8 minutes to the Bucks, with stars Irving and Durant feeding balls to Bruce Brown, author of almost 10 consecutive points.
– End of heart attack –
In the best style of these Nets, who accumulate superlative offensive talent, Brooklyn reached the break with just three points behind (45-42) without pressing the accelerator.
Antetokounmpo and Middleton gritted their teeth in a tense third quarter in which Durant began to fatten his personal account, which barely added 7 points at halftime, and starred in a strong clash with veteran PJ Tucker, which ended with technical fouls.
The Nets took the lead (65-64) for the first time within a minute of the end of the third quarter, opening the curtain for an exciting final period.
Antetokounmpo did not score in the final seven minutes and the game was decided in a duel between Durant and Middleton, who exchanged consecutive baskets.
Several errors by the Nets allowed Jrue Holiday to advance to Milwaukee 84-83 with just 11.4 seconds left.
In an erratic rehearsed play, the Nets failed to get the ball to Durant or Irving and Bruce Brown ended up missing the pitch.
After two free throws made by Middleton, and 2.1 seconds to go, Durant missed the last long-range triple that would have forced overtime.
“It’s interesting that we lose a game because of our offense,” coach Steve Nash said. “It was just a difficult game, we couldn’t find the rhythm.”
The Bucks will have another opportunity on their court in Game 4 on Sunday, in which James Harden will not be present with his hamstring injury. (GG) (AFP)