Milwaukee’s title hopes are still alive after beating Brooklyn, 86-83, in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series before a sellout crowd at Fiserv Forum on Thursday night.
Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday delivered the all-important baskets for the Bucks, who now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
With their season hanging in the balance, the Milwaukee Bucks came roaring out of the gates in Game 3, building a 30-9 advantage in the first quarter.
Milwaukee’s scorching start
Khris Middleton, who struggled with his shot the past two games, quickly found his stroke, scoring 15 of his game-high 35 points during the opening quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo also recorded 15 points during that period as the Bucks played with a sense of urgency. They took advantage of Brooklyn’s cold start as the Nets missed their first seven field-goal attempts.
The Nets, however, refused to fold as they answered with their own 17-2 run spanning the first and second quarters. They continued to chip away, eventually trailing by just three points at the end of the first half.
The game got even tighter in the third quarter as it started to become more physical, with both teams struggling on the offensive end.
Bucks prevail in a thrilling finale
With the game tied at 76-all following Kevin Durant’s jumper, the Nets and Bucks traded empty possessions as the pressure started to set in. Brooklyn missed three straight shots with a couple of turnovers, while Milwaukee missed seven field goals in a row. Middleton broke the scoring drought with 2:40 remaining, but Durant quickly answered with a basket of his own.
The Nets thought they slammed the door shut with 1:23 remaining after Durant buried a tough three-pointer at the top of the key, giving Brooklyn an 83-80 lead.
The Bucks, however, had other ideas as they uncorked a game-ending 6-0 run to keep their title hopes alive. After Middleton cut the deficit to one point with a quick layup, the Bucks made a crucial stop on the other end to grab an opportunity to take the lead.
Jrue Holiday decided not to call a timeout and ultimately made the biggest basket of the night, scoring a layup to give Milwaukee an 84-83 lead.
Holiday shot just 4 of 14 from the field, but fans will be delighted that he knocked down a field goal when it mattered most. After Bruce Brown missed his layup attempt with just over six seconds remaining, Middleton secured the rebound and got fouled. He then scored a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds left to give Milwaukee the much-needed victory.
This was undoubtedly a missed opportunity for the Nets, who were oh so close to securing a 3-0 series lead. Questions will be asked about the way they executed down the stretch with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving not getting the rock in the final minutes of the game. This was surprising given that Durant scored the Nets’ final nine points. Instead, it was Brown who took some ill-advised shots down the stretch that enabled Milwaukee to steal the win.
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