Khris Middleton exploded for a postseason-career-high 38 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo chipped in with 30 to complement 17 rebounds, and the Milwaukee Bucks’ defense wore down the Brooklyn Nets en route to a 104-89 victory Thursday that forces a Game 7 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The best-of-seven set will be decided Saturday night in Brooklyn, where the Nets have won all three previous meetings in the series.
In a duel of different preferred paces, the Bucks got their open-court game going late en route to a 26-4 advantage in fastbreak points against a Nets team still missing star point guard Kyrie Irving (ankle).
Milwaukee never trailed, but Kevin Durant’s 32 points and another gutty performance by James Harden had the visitors within 82-77 after a Joe Harris 3-pointer with 8:41 to go.
However, Middleton turned a foul on a 3-point shot into three free throws on the next possession. Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday got into the open court for a layup before Antetokounmpo converted a P.J. Tucker steal into two free throws and turned a Tucker block into a three-point play as part of a 14-0 flurry that broke the game open.
Middleton’s 38 points, which came on 11-for-16 shooting, 5-for-8 from 3-point range and 11-for-12 at the foul line, were two more than his previous playoff high, set last year in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat.
On Thursday, Middleton also had 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals, giving him his third double-double of the series.
Antetokounmpo got to the line 10 times, making six, as the Bucks outscored the Nets 23-8 on free throws.
Holiday added 21 points for the Bucks, who outrebounded the Nets 51-39.
In an encore performance to his 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in the Nets’ Game 5 win, Durant grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds but just managed three assists.
Harden, who prompted Brooklyn’s slow pace because of a hamstring injury, followed up a 1-for-10 shooting performance in his return in Game 5 with 16 points, shooting 5-for-9 overall and 3-for-6 on 3-point attempts. He also led the Nets with seven assists and four steals.
Blake Griffin added 12 points for Brooklyn, which outscored the hosts 27-21 on 3-pointers, outshooting Milwaukee 30 percent to 21.2 percent from beyond the arc.
--Field Level Media