LOS ANGELES – The Milwaukee Bucks started strong and clung on late to defeat the Brooklyn Nets 86-83 on Thursday and work their way back into the second-round playoff series of the NBA Eastern Conference.
Chris Middleton scored 35 points, and NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 as the Bucks — undefeated in two games in Brooklyn — cut the difference in their best of seven series to 2-1.
Kevin Durant led the net with 30 points and 11 rebounds, but his triple attempt to force overtime bounced off the edge and avoided the Bucks falling into the 0-3 hole.
“It looked good, but thank God it didn’t go in,” Antitukonmo said of Durant’s latest attempt.
The Bucks were coming off a humiliating 39-point loss to the Nets in Game Two in Brooklyn, and in Game One of the series in Milwaukee they came out playing as if their lives depended on the score.
Antetokounmue and Middleton scored 15 points each in the first quarter as the Bucks grabbed 30-11.
Nets turned the tables in the second half, opening the quarter with a score of 15-2.
They outperformed the Bucks 31-15 in the second half — but didn’t get their first lead of the game until the third quarter, when a Bruce Brown shot lifted the jump for them 65-64 with just over a minute left in the period. .
It’s been choppy and the rest of the way, with the Bucks leading by two points in a fourth quarter that saw four changes up front, with neither team leading by more than four points.
He was tied at 80-80 with 1:30 remaining. Durant dried a three-pointer to put the nets behind with a 1:23 left.
Middleton led a corner kick to close the gap and Johnny Holiday rounded out a corner kick to put Milwaukee ahead by 11.4 seconds.
Middleton pushed the Bucks’ advance into three free throws that capped the scoring.
“At the end of the day, we kept our composure,” Antetokonmo said. “We stayed together…we kept believing in our habits and were able to stay in the game and win.”
The Bucks will attempt to settle the series when they host Game Four on Sunday.
Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets, who once again lost the third piece from their triple star, James Harden, who has a hamstring injury.
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