There were deep breaths, hands on knees, and dead legs on Saturday night, but there’s no rest for the weary in a game seven.
After 53 minutes of basketball, neither the Brooklyn Nets nor the Milwaukee Bucks had anything left to give. But game 7’s are a battle of wills. And on Saturday night at Barclays Center, the Milwaukee Bucks will won out.
Kevin Durant’s final attempt to once again bail his Nets teammates out caught nothing but air, and exhaustion set in. You could sense the relief on both sides, giving every last drop they had in the overtime thriller.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 40 points and 13 rebounds in 50 minutes of action, as Milwaukee outlasted the Nets in overtime 115-111. Durant was amazing again, pouring in 48 points — and playing every minute — but James Harden’s hamstring injury hampered him all night long as the two-time NBA Finals champion simply couldn’t do it all on his own.
Antetokounmpo was tired from the tip, with Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer forced to call a timeout in the second quarter to get him off the floor as he labored to get up the court.
“There’s so much responsibility he takes on every night,” Budenholzer said. “The defense, what he’s having to do, guard all kinds of different guys, be in different coverages. Offensively, the ball’s in his hands a ton, whether it’s coming in transition almost like a point guard, playing out of the post, he just does so much and to be able to do it for 50 minutes, just super impressed. He’s very special.”
It was an evening of proving the doubters wrong for Antetokounmpo. Mocked by the crowd all night for his poor free throw shooting during the series, Giannis silenced the Brooklyn faithful, hitting eight of his 14 free throws. It was Antetokounmpo’s first game seven win.
“I almost got a little emotional out there,” Antetokounmpo said, “because the team really, really tried their best. We kept our composure. We were down 2-0 (in the series). A lot of people didn’t believe that we could win back home. We protect homecourt with our unbelievable fans. Just to come to New York where we were 0-5 in our last five games. Everybody’s anxious, everybody’s nervous.”
“To be able to execute, to believe in one another, to trust one another, it was big time. Really happy for this team. I’m really happy for what we got done. But the job is not.”
Durant sent the game to overtime in classic KD fashion, knocking down a turnaround 23-footer to tie the game 109-109.
If not for his giant big toe, we’d be talking about another Bucks playoff exit instead of their second Eastern Conference Finals trip in three years. Durant’s game-tying shot almost sent the Bucks home, but his foot was on the line, forcing another five minutes of action to determine the series winner.
“I thought it was a tres but my big a** foot stepped on the line. … I saw how close I was to ending their season,” Durant said after the game.
The Bucks PJ Tucker — guarding KD all series — could only laugh in amazement after Durant sent the game to overtime.
“That was um…honestly I just wanted to make sure he didn’t shoot a three,” Tucker said. “Then when I cut him off, I thought he would (go) like one-foot, step-back and when he spinned that through me off. That shot was incredible. I don’t think people really appreciated the level of difficulty of that shot. Like, I’ve never… it was incredible. I laughed. I actually just laughed after he made it because it was incredible.”
It was all on Durant’s shoulders as Kyrie Irving missed the final three games of the series with a sprained ankle, and Harden was a shell of himself with a grade two hamstring injury. Durant was lights out all series, scoring 49 points in 48 minutes in game five but he simply ran out of gas in game seven. He missed every shot he took in overtime — 0-6 from the field.
Milwaukee has fallen flat on their face in the playoffs the past several seasons, blowing a 2-0 lead to the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and allowing the Miami Heat to thoroughly demolish them in the Orlando bubble. The blame — whether fair or not — fell firmly on the wide shoulders of their two-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. But unlike in games past, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks didn’t wilt under the pressure, finding a way to weather the onslaught from Durant and holding the Nets scoreless for the final 4:38 of overtime.
“We really wanted this as a team,” Antetokounmpo said. “There were a lot of ups and downs within the series, there were a lot of ups and downs in this game.”
“We could have finished the game before overtime, and wasn’t able to, but we kept our composure.”
Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast struggled all game — Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday shot a combined 14-49 from the field — but hit big shots in the fourth quarter and overtime including Middleton’s go-ahead jumper with 40.7 left in overtime.
Milwaukee will be closely watching game seven between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, as they’ll play the winner in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.
“The job is not done,” Antetokounmpo said. “So that’s the message here, that’s the message in the locker room. We’ve got to keep keeping our heads within the game. Can’t get too high, can’t get too low.”
“We didn’t win the championship. But this is a great step for our organization.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.
View Original Source Source