LOS ANGELES: Giannis Antetokounmpo had 40 points and 13 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 115-111 in a thrilling game-seven overtime on Saturday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The best-of-seven series has featured almost everything, including epic scoring performances, aggressive fouls, rim-rattling dunks, series-ending injuries and of course, Saturday’s winner-take-all game seven which turned into a see-saw affair with dozens of lead changes throughout.
The only thing missing was an overtime which Kevin Durant set the stage for in game seven when he drained a turnaround jump shot at the buzzer in regulation to level the score at 109 all in front of a crowd of 16,200 at Barclays Center arena in New York. Two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo shot 15-of-24 and had five assists in 50 minutes of playing time in the head-to-head match-up with Durant. “I want to be great,” Antetokounmpo said. “We had to give everything.”
Durant finished with 48 points, nine rebounds and six assists but missed two jumpers in the final minute of overtime that could have tied the score and possibly forced a second extra session. “We got looks, we just didn’t knock them down,” said Durant. “At the end of the day, I try not to get too high, not to get too low. But I almost got emotional a little bit out there because the team really tried their best,” Antetokounmpo said. “We kept our composure. We were down 2-0. A lot of people didn’t believe we could make it.”
Khris Middleton tallied 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, who became the first road team to win a game in the series. Brook Lopez chipped in 19 and Jrue Holiday contributed 13 points to the win. Antetokounmpo hit the game-tying basket and Khris Middleton delivered the game winner in overtime as the Bucks advanced to the NBA semi-finals for the second time in three seasons.
Milwaukee took the lead for good, 113-111, when Middleton converted on a 13-foot turnaround jumper with 40 seconds to go. Durant shot 17 of 36, draining four three-pointers, while James Harden chipped in 22 points but shot a dismal five-of-17 in another frustrating playoff performance from the former league MVP. Harden was playing with a sore hamstring.
“Give them credit. They are a great team. They have a great chance to win the championship,” said Durant of the Bucks. Durant forced overtime after the Nets failed to hold onto a five-point lead in the final minutes of the fourth. With just 1.6 seconds left, Durant hit a 24-foot turnaround jumper from the three point line. After video review, officials ruled his foot was on the line making it a two point basket instead of a three. “We got lucky his toe was on the line and they called it a two,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said. “But once he hits that shot, we’ve got to forget about it. There’s still ballgame left. That wasn’t the game.” – AFP