The Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday started strong and clung on late to beat the Brooklyn Nets 86-83 and claw their way back into their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series.
Khris Middleton scored 35 points and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 as the Bucks — routed in two games in Brooklyn — trimmed the deficit in the best-of-seven series 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 an 0-3 hole.
Photo: Benny Sieu-USA Today
“It looked good, but thank god it didn’t go in,” Antetokounmpo said of Durant’s final attempt.
The Bucks were coming off a humiliating 39-point loss to the Nets in Game 2 in Brooklyn and in the first game of the series in Milwaukee they came out playing as if their lives depended on the outcome.
Antetokounmpo and Middleton scored 15 points apiece in the first quarter as the Bucks seized a 30-11 lead.
The Nets turned the tables in the second period, opening the quarter on a 15-2 scoring run.
They outscored the Bucks 31-15 in the second — but they did not get their first lead of the game until the third quarter, when Bruce Brown’s jump shot put them up 65-64 with just over a minute remaining in the period.
It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, the Bucks taking a two-point lead into a fourth quarter that saw four lead changes, with neither team leading by more than four points.
It was tied at 80-80 with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining. Durant drained a three-pointer to put the Nets up with 1:23 left.
Middleton drove for a layup to cut the deficit and Jrue Holiday spun in for a layup to put Milwaukee up by one with 11.4 seconds to play.
“To take the ball, and get to the basket and finish with a scramble defense, we needed that,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Holiday’s effort. “We needed that one play from him and he made it, and it was big.”
Middleton pushed the Bucks’ lead to three with two free throws that capped the scoring.
“At the end of the day we kept our composure,” Antetokounmpo said. “We stayed together ... we kept trusting our habits, and we were able to stay in the game and get the win.”
The Bucks will try to level the series when they host Game 4 tomorrow.
“That’s a good old-fashioned playoff game right there,” said Kyrie Irving, who added 22 points for a Nets team who were again without the third piece of their star trio, James Harden, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
“Both teams played incredible defensively,” Durant said. “Both teams played extremely hard, low turnover game. They had eight blocks, we had eight steals, so it was one of them grind-out games. They just made a couple more points late. They hit a couple more shots than we did.”
In the Western Conference, Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points as the Utah Jazz held on for a 117-111 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert — fresh off winning his third Defensive Player of the Year award — scored 13 points, pulled down 20 rebounds and blocked three shots as Utah took a 2-0 lead in the series.
Mitchell got off to a hot start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter.
Although the Jazz led by just one point after one period, they pushed the lead to 13 in the second quarter and to 21 in the third, before the Clippers battled back.
Los Angeles took the lead for the first time on a three-pointer by Reggie Jackson with 6:37 remaining, but Utah responded with a 15-4 scoring run to regain control.
Jackson led the Clippers in scoring with 29 points. Paul George added 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was held to 21 points.
“We kept fighting,” Gobert said. “These guys are tough, they’re never going to give up. We know that it’s going to be a battle 48 minutes every night.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr on Sunday night predictably dominated YouTube star Logan Paul in an eight-round exhibition fight in Miami before saying it could have been his final performance. Mayweather, who weighed in at 70.3kg with his opponent tipping the scales at 85.96kg, produced a slick performance much to the delight of the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in Florida. Intermittent rain throughout the evening failed to put a damper on the 44-year-old Mayweather’s first performance since beating Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in December 2018. With the likes of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield watching on from ringside, the 26-year-old Paul lasted eight rounds
Taiwan on Monday lost their seventh consecutive qualifying match for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, falling 1-5 to Australia in Kuwait. The loss means that Taiwan will finish last in the five-team Group B with one match left to play in the second round of Asian qualifiers on Tuesday next week against Kuwait. Australia lead the group with six straight wins and appear certain to clinch the top spot and an automatic berth in the next qualification round. Taiwan head coach Henry Von said his team showed fighting spirit against the group’s best team, improving from their 0-2
Australia’s three Olympic women marathoners boast a combined age of 118, and the eldest of the group Sinead Diver is adamant that being 44 is not a hindrance. A mother of two, Diver would be making her Olympic debut while fellow mom, Lisa Weightman at 42 would contest her fourth Games. Ellie Pashley at 32 is the baby of the group. They make up the strongest trio Australia has ever sent to the Olympics, with all three in the country’s top-8 of all time. Irish-born Diver, who would become the oldest Australian ever to compete in Olympic athletics, said age was irrelevant. “I find it
IMPROBABLE DEFEAT: The top-seeded duo of Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens fell to Iga Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a wild three-hour match Serena Williams’ latest quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title ended in the French Open last 16 on Sunday, hours after Roger Federer pulled out of what was possibly his last appearance at Roland Garros, while Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-ching also exited. The 39-year-old Williams, still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for most Grand Slam singles titles, lost 6-3, 7-5 to Kazakh 21st seed Elena Rybakina, while Federer withdrew as a precaution to protect his body for Wimbledon. The American won the last of her three Roland Garros titles in 2015, and has not advanced