LOS ANGELES – The Milwaukee Bucks started strong and hung up late to beat the Brooklyn Nets 86-83 on Thursday and make their way into their NBA Eastern Conference second-round playoff series.
Khris Middleton scored 35 points and NBA two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 as the Bucks – routed in two games in Brooklyn – reduced the series deficit from the top seven to 2- 1.
Kevin Durant led the Nets with 30 points and 11 rebounds, but his three-point attempt to force overtime bounced off the rim and the Bucks avoided falling into a 0-3 hole.
“It looked good, but thank goodness it didn’t come in,” Antetokounmpo said of Durant’s latest attempt.
The Bucks had just suffered a humiliating 39-point loss to the Nets in Game 2 in Brooklyn, and in Game 1 of the series in Milwaukee, they played as if their lives depended on the outcome.
Antetokounmpo and Middleton scored 15 points each in the first quarter as the Bucks took a 30-11 lead.
The Nets turned things around in the second period, opening the quarter with a 15-2 score.
They beat the Bucks 31-15 in the second – but they didn’t get their first lead of the game until the third quarter, when Bruce Brown’s shot put them 65-64 with just over a minute left. play in the period.
It was tight until the end, with the Bucks taking a two-point lead in a fourth quarter that saw four changes to the lead, with neither team having more than four points.
He was tied at 80-80 with 1:30 remaining. Durant drained a three-point pointer to put the Nets in place with 1:23 to go.
Middleton led for a layup to reduce the deficit and Jrue Holiday spun for a layup to put Milwaukee in the lead with 11.4 seconds left.
Middleton took the Bucks’ lead to three with two free throws that capped the score.
“At the end of the day, we kept our cool,” Antetokounmpo said. “We stayed together… we continued to trust our ways and we were able to stay in the game and take the win.”
The Bucks will look to level the series when they host Game 4 on Sunday.
Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets, who were once again without the third member of their star trio, James Harden, who is treating a hamstring injury.
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