A Game 7 thriller, the first make or die NBA game to go to overtime in 15 years, has shrunk to inches.
If Brooklyn star Kevin Durant was just a little farther away – or if his foot was slightly smaller – he finished the seventh-scoring game of all time by an NBA player with a 3 points to win the series.
“We were lucky that his toe was in play and they called it a 2,” said Khris Middleton of Milwaukee. “But once he pulls that off we have to forget about him. There is still some ball game. It was not the game.
And given a second chance, the Bucks cashed it for a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bucks weathered Durant’s NBA record with 48 points in Game 7, beating the Nets 115-111 on Saturday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 40 points and 13 rebounds, and Middleton had the decisive shot with 40 seconds left in overtime.
“At the end of the day, I try not to go too high, not to go too low. But I almost got a little emotional because the team really did their best, ”said Antetokounmpo. “We kept our cool. We were down 2-0. A lot of people didn’t believe we could do it.
The Bucks held on when Durant missed two late jumpers, the latter an airball with 0.3 seconds remaining.
“We had a great appearance there in overtime. We just didn’t knock them down, ”Durant said. “Respect for the Milwaukee Bucks in the way they prepare, how they’ve challenged us every series and made adjustments every series. We have nothing but respect for this ball club.”
Middleton added 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, who reached the Eastern Final for the second time in three years. They will play either in Philadelphia or Atlanta in a series that kicks off Wednesday night.
Durant played the 53 minutes and forced OT with a turnaround jumper who was inches away from being a 3-pointer who would have won him with a second to go.
“But my big foot got its foot on the line,” he said. “I just saw how close I was to ending their season with this shot.”
Durant added nine rebounds and six assists but didn’t get enough help with injured Kyrie Irving watching from the baseline and James Harden unable to locate his shot after missing most of the first four games with a tension in the right hamstrings.
Harden had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but had 5 for 17 on the field.
“I was just going over there and trying to give everything I could and it’s just frustrating,” Harden said.
In a series where teams often did not produce the expected quality of play between the league’s two most-scoring teams, Game 7 was a thriller, the first to need extra time since Dallas beat San Antonio in the half. final of the Western Conference of 2006..
The Bucks had a 109-107 lead before Middleton missed a 3, but the Bucks took the rebound. They then turned him around on a shot clock violation to give the Nets one last chance with 6 seconds left. They threw him across the field at Durant, who hit a spinning jumper just inside the 3-point line – maybe even above – to tie him at 109.
Bruce Brown scored on a follow-up shot to open overtime, but neither team scored again until Antetokounmpo’s basket with 1:12 remaining. Brook Lopez blocked Durant’s shot at the other end before Middleton broke the final tie in the series.
Durant tried to extend it again, dribbling across the floor and timing before throwing a long gaze that turned out to be quite short.
Lopez had 19 points for the Bucks, who were knocked out in that round last year after finishing with the best NBA record. Jrue Holiday had a poor shooting night to finish with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Blake Griffin had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets, who believed they had a title contender after acquiring Harden but had their three superstars on the floor together for just 43 seconds in that series. They lost for the first time at home in the playoffs.
The Nets had struggled with slow starts but managed a good one in Game 7, getting 10 points from Durant to lead 28-25 after the first quarter.
Middleton and Holiday were both 2-for-11 in the first half, combining to miss all six 3-pointers in a replay of their shooting struggles since the series started in Brooklyn.
The Nets took advantage of the Bucks’ misfires – Antetokounmpo fired a ball of air on a free throw and Lopez and Holiday hit the side of the backboard on long jumpers during an ugly stretch – to open a 51-41 lead over Harden’s three-point game with 1: 59 left in half-time.
Down six at halftime, the Bucks came out of the break with a 7-0 flurry to take a 54-53 advantage. The Nets regrouped and were leading 79-74 with less than 2 minutes left, but the Bucks closed hard to take an 82-81 lead in the fourth.
Bucks: Antetokounmpo played his fifth straight game with 30 points and 10 rebounds, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise playoff record he set in 1974.
Nets: Durant had his third 40-point game of the playoffs. The Nets have only had three other 40-point playoff games in their NBA history. … Brown had 14 points after playing just 4.5 minutes in Game 6.
N ° 7 IN GAME 7s
Durant fell to 3-2 in Game 7. although his average rose to 36.2 points. His game-entry average of 33.3 was third among all players who had appeared in more than a Game 7, behind LeBron James (34.9 PPG in 8 games) and Michael Jordan (33.7 PPG in 3 games), according to Elias.