Bucks advance, overcome Durant-led Nets in Game 7 thriller
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points, including the tying basket in overtime and Khris Middleton hit the go-ahead shot with 40.7 seconds left as the Milwaukee Bucks pulled out a 115-111 victory over the host Brooklyn Nets Saturday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bucks survived a 48-point performance by Kevin Durant, overcame losing the first two games, including a 39-point loss in Game 2 and advanced to the conference finals for the 10th time in team history and second time in three seasons.
Antetkounmpo capped a 15-for-24 shooting performance by hitting a turnaround hook shot in the lane over Kevin Durant with 72 seconds left and the Bucks took the lead for good when Middleton hit a fadeaway 12-footer just over 30 seconds later.
Following Middleton’s clutch shot, Durant missed a 10-foot fadeaway with 34.7 seconds left. After Middleton missed a 12-footer with 14.9 seconds left, Durant missed a 23-foot turnaround jumper with three-tenths of a second left and Brook Lopez sealed it at the line.
The Nets had taken a 111-109 lead on a putback by Brown 22 seconds into overtime and neither team scored until Antetokounmpo’s turnaround hook shot over Durant.
The third-seeded Bucks will face Sunday’s Game 7 winner between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks in the conference finals.
The Nets forced overtime in dramatic fashion after blowing a five-point lead in the final four minutes of regulation. Durant forged a 109-109 deadlock when he hit a well-contested 23-footer over P.J. Tucker with 1.6 seconds left. Officials confirmed via replay that Durant’s toe was on the 3-point line.
Middleton added 23 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Brook Lopez chipped in 19 and Jrue Holiday contributed 13 despite 5-for-23 shooting. The Bucks shot 43.9 percent, hit 15 3-pointers and survived Middleton and Holiday going a combined 14-for-49 from the field.
Durant went the distance for the second time in the series. He shot 17 of 36, knocking down four 3-pointers, from the field as the Nets shot 46.4 percent.
James Harden also went the distance in his second back from right hamstring tightness and added 22 points on 5-for-17 shooting as the Nets were without Kyrie Irving (sprained right ankle). Blake Griffin added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Bruce Brown contributed 14 as the Nets lost a Game 7 in Brooklyn for the second time since the team moved there (also in 2013, first round against Chicago).
Brooklyn held a 101-96 lead when Harden banked in a 3-pointer from the left side as the shot clock wound down with four minutes left. Milwaukee tied the game at 101-all on a layup by Antetkounmpo with 2:45 left and took a 104-101 edge on a 3-pointer by Holiday 13 seconds later, but a shot-clock violation set up Durant’s dramatic shot at the end of regulation.
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