Are there any better words in sports than Game 7? Buckle up, because the Milwaukee Bucks forced a Game 7 by defeating the Brooklyn Nets 102-89 Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks would quickly open up things by creating a double-digit advantage with an 18-5 lead. However, the Nets wouldn’t waste anytime answering, immediately rattling off a 7-0 run to get themselves back in it. Despite Milwaukee shooting a poor 1-of9 from deep, the Bucks carried a 26-19 lead into the second.
James Harden would start to come alive in the second quarter, with a string of shots coming while Kevin Durant was on the bench. They’d slice into the Bucks lead to make the deficit to single digits, but a pair of threes from Khris Middleton in the final minutes of the half propelled Milwaukee to a 59-48 lead.
It wouldn’t be long before that double-digit lead vanished. Kevin Durant really began to start cooking in the third quarter, hitting countless impressive shots. However, Khris Middleton was also impressive. In fact, his near-desperation lay-in as time expired in the third quarter provided Milwaukee with a double-digit padding, 78-67.
While Brooklyn was able to make things single digits as the fourth began, the Bucks would be able to hold onto their lead for the remainder of the game. In fact, they’d build on it, having quite the impressive quarter. They’d put the final touches on both the Nets and a Game 6 victory, 104-89.
Khris Middleton led all scorers in this one, posting up an incredible 38 point performance. That would be a new playoff career-high. Giannis Antetokounmpo also mixed in 30 of his own.
For the Nets, Kevin Durant contributed with 32 points of his own. James Harden had a much more effective game, scratching out 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
What Did We Learn?
JAMES. KHRISTIAN. MIDDLETON. What an effort.
I mean, it’s impossible not to go with K-Midd here. Just a mammoth performance from him. So many times throughout his career, Middleton has stepped up when the Bucks have needed him to — and tonight was no different. He’d rattle off an 11-of-16 shooting performance. That would also register in five made 3-pointers. Add up all of those shots and you get a new career playoff-high in 38 points (along with ten rebounds). When the Nets made it close at the end of the second and third quarters, it was Middleton who embarked on two individual 6-0 runs to put Milwaukee back with a double-digit lead. When a teammate like Jrue Holiday was struggling, Middleton was able to pick up the slack in a major way. Every player began their postgame availability mentioning Khris. Let’s see if he’ll be able to continue it on Saturday in Brooklyn.
It was not the best of nights for Jrue Holiday.
Holiday would take a slew of 3-pointers. Unfortunately for him and the Bucks, only one would fall. It was a bit frustrating for Bucks fans that he kept shooting. In fact, his ten threes were the most taken by any Bucks players. It was just a bit odd seeing him shift away from something that was working (his drives to the hoop) and elect to keep shooting when he was so cold on the night. Hopefully for the Bucks’ sake, it was just an off-night.
While James Harden was more effective tonight, he is clearly not 100 percent.
While James Harden was able to score a handful of more points tonight than in Game 5 (he’d finish with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting), it was still crystal clear that he’s not feeling himself and is still experiencing issues with his hamstring. The one questionable aspect is that the Bucks didn’t seem to use that to their advantage the best that they could. You’d think they’d try to make him uncomfortable and drive to the rack, but a good number of his shot attempts were jumpers. That also creates the problem of him earning a foul, then getting points at the free throw line. Tonight, he was just 3-of-5 from the charity stripe, but he could easily have a bigger number in that category on Saturday.
Another night with Bobby Portis not making an appearance.
I found it to be intriguing that Bud didn’t call on Portis’ name for the second consecutive outing. He was so big in the regular season and provided the Bucks so many sparks on numerous occasions. Despite that, he’s been riding the pine a majority of this series. Granted, he hasn’t had the best series and the Bucks still won, so perhaps the point is moot — but it is something to wonder. One notable player minutes count is Pat Connaughton, who played 22 minutes on the evening.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The best part of the Bucks’ postgame availability came from the final player of the night that spoke to us — PJ Tucker:
"It's the playoffs, man. I don't know what people think. We dream about this our whole lives. You dream about being in the playoffs and guarding the best player in the world. Like, I'll die out there. I'm living my dream." https://t.co/yjIIBCzWLW— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) June 18, 2021
If you have a moment, watch his full presser. You won’t regret it.
- Brook Lopez continues to be a force for Milwaukee. He’s just so impactful on both sides of the floor. Last night, while he’d just tally eight points, he did earn another three blocks, showing that he can make a difference. It’ll go a long way for the Bucks if he has a stellar outing on Saturday.
- It’s so fun to watch Giannis be aggressive. His shot selection last night was nearly perfect, as he didn’t force any 3-pointers and instead leveraged what he does best — driving and aggressiveness. Bucks fans will hope for a repeat shot performance on Saturday.
- Badgers fans will be happy to hear this:
Tom Izzo was just shown on the screen and was greeted with boos.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) June 18, 2021
For what it’s worth, Izzo said he was there to support his former player Bryn Forbes, as well as the Bucks.
- I’m pretty sure my ears are still ringing from this:
- Talk about the energy being brought from this fan:
- A fun one to end this one. Are the Nets the dumbest team name in the NBA? Personally, I think I’d have to go with the Jazz. I mean...the Jazz...in Utah? C’mon.