Bucks Beat Nets in Overtime, Advance to Conference Finals – The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Brooklyn Nets 115-111 in Brooklyn, New York Saturday night to advance to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo captained the Bucks with 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in 50 minutes of action; Milwaukee’s shooters finally woke up and nailed 15 of 36 (41.7%) threes, giving the Greek Freak the scoring support that he had only received in limited supply throughout the playoffs.
Kevin Durant had a look at a long two in the final seconds of overtime but came up short— Brooklyn Head Coach Steve Nash had the opportunity to take a timeout and draw up a play instead of leaving his star to traverse the full length of the court but chose to put the game entirely in Durant’s hands. The Bucks collected the rebound and ended the game after sinking a pair of free throws.
Durant set a record for most points scored by a player in a Game Seven in NBA history, finishing with 48 while playing every second of the overtime thriller. Durant also had nine rebounds and six assists and made a turn-around fade-away jumper right on the three-point line with one second remaining in regulation to force the extra period.
This series turned into a war of attrition after being billed as a battle between superstars; Kyrie Irving was lost to an ankle injury in Game Four which forced the return of a hobbled James Harden, still suffering the effects of a nagging hamstring injury that had been reaggravated in the first minute of Game One.
As the Nets slowly fell around Durant, he remained as fierce as ever: the former MVP delivered one of the best playoff performances of all time in Game Five when he led a 16-point second-half comeback, finishing with 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and nearly reaching the same scoring figure in Game Seven. The second-year Net posted an absurd line of 35.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the series against the Bucks, looking like the best player in the entire league.
Milwaukee fans had their hearts in their mouths when Durant’s primary defender, P.J. Tucker, fouled out with just under two minutes left in the ball game. Tucker had been playing excellent defense on Durant despite his ridiculous box score and was seen talking back-and-forth with Durant throughout many stoppages in play, even good-naturedly chirping at Durant’s Mom who was sitting courtside.
Notably, Giannis Antetokounmpo did not get the assignment on Durant after Tucker exited despite telling the media that he welcomed the challenge of guarding Durant in clutch situations. Khris Middleton instead took over for Tucker and did a great job on him.
Another member of the Bucks that was called on down the stretch was Jrue Holiday (13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists), who scored eight fourth-quarter points after shooting 2-16 in the first three. Holiday’s contributions were limited but impactful.
Other noteworthy performances came from Milwaukee’s Middleton (23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five steals), James Harden (22 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) and Blake Griffin (17 points, 11 rebounds.
One of the most shocking stats of the night came in total bench points, of which there were just nine, all belonging to Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton— Game Seven was a duel fought almost exclusively between the starters.
Durant’s first active season in Brooklyn ends with a historic stretch in the second round while the Bucks return to their third conference finals of the 2000s and first since 2019 when they went up 2-0 over Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto Raptors only to lose four consecutive contests.
Questions will be asked of Brooklyn Head Coach Steve Nash in the offseason for his reliance upon an injured and struggling James Harden, who played 46.3 average minutes after returning to the lineup, lack of offensive schematics, and inability to capitalize on a 3-2 lead with home-court advantage.
Milwaukee will enjoy a day off Sunday as they wait for the late game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks to determine who they will play in the next round— the winner of that match-up will then be declared champion of the Eastern Conference and will take on either the Phoenix Suns or the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Finals.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.