The Milwaukee Bucks are still breathing the playoffs — barely.
The Bucks already trailed 2-0 in a run of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets, trailing 3rd with 83 seconds left in Game 3 at Fiserv Forum on Thursday night on a three-pointer from Kevin Durant, and scored the last six runs. of the game with an 86-83 win to fight their way back in this best-of-seven affair.
And after that, guard Bucks Jrue Holiday — who reached the lead layup with 11.3 seconds left — said that if Milwaukee has to keep making it ugly to pull out victories at the defensive end in this series, the Bucks will gladly do that.
“Defend first,” Holiday said. “Defense wins games and it wins championships. I think it means a lot to stop with two seconds left. When they score 83 points, I feel like this is the type of defense we want to play.
“If we have to screw up the game, we have to screw up. But when it comes down to it, we want to be aggressive against everyone.”
After the Nets pushed their way past the Bucks in each of the first two games of this series in Brooklyn, as the series headed back to Milwaukee, it was clear from the moment the game started that the home side was desperate for the right one. show. different in this one. The Bucks, led by PJ Tucker, who spent most of the night guarding Durant, came out much more aggressively – on both sides – to jump to a 30-11 lead, only to finish in the final 36 minutes. 56 points to score when Brooklyn slowly dragged itself back into the game.
The result was a game that was more like something from the 1990s than the 2020s, with plenty of hard defense and long stretches with no baskets made on either side.
All that mattered to Milwaukee, though, was that Durant, who finished with 30 points but shot just 11-for-28 from the field, got his last shot of the game off the back of the rim when the buzzer sounded, making the Bucks to give themselves a chance to tie the series at two games apiece when these teams meet again on Sunday in Game 4.
“Shoot, man, they did what they had to do: come out aggressively, with our backs against the wall, and we had to weather that storm,” said Kyrie Irving, who had 22 points in 45 minutes. “So, we definitely got our tails up for the rest of the game by just catching up, playing their style of basketball, and then they made some big timed shots that took them forward.
“But we had our chances on the long course. It was a game per possession. Both teams competed. So that’s an old-fashioned play-off game.”
Style points count for nothing in playoff games — and that’s a good thing, because this game wasn’t exactly full of them. Only five players finished in double figures — Durant, Irving and Bruce Brown (16 points) for the Nets, and Khris Middleton (35) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33) for Milwaukee. For most of the first half, the rest of Milwaukee’s roster combined for one field goal. Things weren’t much better for Brooklyn, who trailed 30-11 after the first quarter, before storming back into the game with a big second quarter of their own.
Brown, who was Brooklyn’s unsung hero in this series after replacing injured star James Harden in the starting line-up, had repeated success getting into the lane for floaters throughout the game.
But in the closing seconds Brown missed a pull-up jumper that could have given the Nets a 3-point lead with a 20.8 second lead, was beaten by Holiday for the go-ahead layup with 11.3 seconds left and then, after the inbounds pass was nearly flipped by Brooklyn, Brown ended up with the ball to the basket and missed a layup with 6.4 seconds left.
“It was a tough, tough playoff game where neither team really shot the ball well and created good chances,” said Nets coach Steve Nash.
“Someone would win ugly and it was them tonight.”
All the Bucks were focused on was taking a win, point out, after two tough games in Brooklyn — especially the 39-point shellacking Milwaukee recorded in Game 2. And while the Bucks managed to do just that, it didn’t come without some tense moments.
Part of that was due to the lack of production from the rest of the Bucks’ offense as the team scored 18 points together outside of Middleton and Antetokounmpo on 8-for-34 overall, including 2-for-17 for 3 – points range, and took (and missed) only one free throw.
“Try to get in the paint and make something happen,” Holiday said of his attacking mentality, after going 4-for-14 and scoring 9 runs in 46 minutes. “But I think I got a little discouraged at some point today because I get in and put it in and my shots don’t fall.”
And that was partly due to the continued struggle of Antetokounmpo, both from the perimeter and from the free throw line. Antetokounmpo picked up 8 three-pointers in the playoffs on Thursday, making only one, which came early in the fourth quarter. He also went 4-for-9 from the foul line and was called up for a 10-second foul for the second time in the playoffs that removed another possible try from his ledger.
But Antetokounmpo said that as long as teams are going to play him, he will have to keep making the right play – which, he said, sometimes involved taking threes.
“It’s all about instinct,” said Anteokounmpo, who also had 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 turnovers in 43 minutes. “Basketball is all about instinct. Ultimately my instinct tells me this is the right decision to make, I will live with that.
“It’s the same… like, everyone, if you wake up in the morning and think you should have a cup of coffee, and that’s what you want to do, that’s what your instinct tells you, that’s what you give the soul tells you Whatever the case, that’s what you do You know, it doesn’t matter what happens next, because you live with the decision you make.
“And at the end of the day I was just trying to make the right decision at the right time and today it shot 8 3s, and the next game shot zero 3s. Who knows? I’m just going to try and keep making the right decision. “
After the Bucks managed to get back into this series with a win, Antetokounmpo was just happy to be able to go home and celebrate a win that kept Milwaukee’s chances of getting out of the second round alive. No team has come back from a 3-0 playoff deficit in NBA history.
“A win is a win,” he said. “Today we didn’t score much but at the end of the day we won and that’s all we came for tonight. We knew it was a very, very difficult game and we needed this game as much as possible. , and hopefully we get the next one.
“But at the end of the day, a win is a win. When you can go back home and celebrate a W…it feels good.”
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