The Nets have two of the best offensive players in the league and couldn’t get them shots when it mattered most.
Bruce Brown missed two potential game-winners for the Nets in the final 20 seconds -- which followed Joe Harris’ misfired jumper on the previous possession – as a scorching hot Kevin Durant stood mostly as a bystander to a wild finish and a Bucks’ victory Thursday, 86-83.
Khris Middleton saved the Bucks by scoring eight points in the final three minutes, salvaging their hopes of upsetting Brooklyn. Milwaukee had its backs against the wall and barely fought its way off.
It was an uncharacteristically low-scoring game for two of the best offensive teams in the NBA. Points were at a premium, especially at the start of the fourth quarter. But then Durant and Middleton came alive, and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday hit the biggest shot of the night – a spin-move transition lay-up with 11.4 seconds remaining to take a 84-83 advantage.
On the next Nets possession, a broken play finished with Brown driving to the rim and throwing up a wayward attempt. Brown missed four shots in the final 3:33.
Durant scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half – and almost won the game with a trey with 1:23 left -- but didn’t take a shot in the final minute until a contested long-distanced heave at the buzzer that hit the back of the rim.
“It looked good,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “But thank god it didn’t go in.”
The Bucks made a statement from tipoff, jumping out to an early 19-point lead with Antetokounmpo determined and physical while dropping 15 points in the first quarter.
There was a clearly shot of adrenaline for the home squad, which enjoyed its biggest crowd (16,500) in since the pandemic began. It was nearly double the previous high in Fiserv Forum.
But it didn’t last long. The Nets packed the paint and flustered Antetokounmpo, who was left open for 3-pointers and couldn’t come close to connecting. Antetokounmpo also struggled from the foul line (4-for-9) and was whistled for a 10-second violation, which couldn’t have helped his psyche on the charity stripe. He also shot 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. Still, the Greek Freak scored 33 points as he and Middleton combined for 68 of the 86 points.
The Bucks led the NBA in scoring this season but again, under coach Mike Budenholzer, are a lesser offense in the playoffs.
Durant grabbed 11 rebounds but missed several open looks in the first half and shot 11-for-28 overall. Kyrie Irving added 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting.
The Nets shot just 8-for-32 on 3-pointers as a team, with Joe Harris going 1-for-7.
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