Jrue Holiday hit a go-ahead driving layup with 11.4 seconds remaining and the Milwaukee Bucks tightened the defensive screws on the visiting Brooklyn Nets for an 86-83 victory in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semi-final playoff series on Thursday night.
In a classic two-on-two showdown until Holiday’s heroics, Bucks standouts Khris Middleton (35 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33) outduelled Nets counterparts Kevin Durant (30) and Kyrie Irving (22), helping Milwaukee win for the first time in the best-of-seven series.
Khris Middleton (35 PTS, 15 REB) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33 PTS, 14 REB) are the 1st pair of teammates to each record 30+ PTS and 10+ REB in an #NBAPlayoffs game since Stephen Curry (32 PTS, 10 REB) and Kevin Durant (33 PTS, 13 REB) on June 4, 2017. pic.twitter.com/4QklSBjBYP
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday evening in Milwaukee and is free to watch live on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel.
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After allowing 115 and 125 points in the first two games of the series in Brooklyn, the Bucks limited the Nets to 36.2 per cent shooting yet still trailed 83-80 after a Durant three-pointer with 1:23 to go.
However, the Nets never scored again.
Middleton got the Bucks within 83-82 on a layup with 1:17 to play, setting up Holiday’s difference-maker.
The Nets had subsequent chances to go ahead and tie, but Bruce Brown missed a short shot with 6.4 seconds left. After Middleton added a pair of free throws to increase the Milwaukee lead to three, Durant misfired on a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Middleton also grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, and Antetokounmpo pulled down 14 boards.
Holiday finished with nine points as the third-leading scorer for the Bucks, who were coming off a 125-86 shellacking in Game 2.
The Bucks won despite hitting just 6 of 31 three-point attempts (19.4 per cent), as they benefitted from limiting the Nets to 8 of 32 (25 per cent) from long range.
Brown complemented Durant and Irving for Brooklyn with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Durant also had 11 boards.
Inspired by the threat of falling behind 3-0 in the series, the Bucks dominated on both ends of the court early on, scoring the first nine points of the game. Antetokounmpo had seven of the nine, including a pair of dunks.
The Nets didn’t score until Brown hit a short jumper almost four minutes into the game. Brooklyn missed their first seven shots, including four three-point tries, and mixed in two turnovers.
Milwaukee led 30-9 in the final minute of the period before Brooklyn began a comeback, getting within 45-42 by half-time. The Nets drew even for the first time at 57-all on a three-pointer by Durant with 5:02 remaining in the third period.
Both teams’ benches were unable to get going, with Brooklyn’s outscoring Milwaukee’s 7-6.
The Nets again played without star guard James Harden, who is still nursing a tight right hamstring he sustained less than a minute into Game 1 of the series.
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