Milwaukee, carried by Antetokounmpo and Middleton, authors of 79% of the team’s points, a record for a duo in the NBA play-offs, closed the gap against Brooklyn (86-83), while Utah made the break against the Clippers (117-111) in the other semi-final played Thursday.
The Bucks come out of the woods
Milwaukee absolutely had to win, after two clear defeats, or risk being swept up. In front of their audience, they succeeded, but it was hard. However, they started very aggressively, inflicting a 30-11 on the Nets in the first quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, criticized for their lack of harshness, responded appropriately, scoring 15 units each.
Their predominance in attack was verified throughout, even if their skill dropped slightly afterwards. The former finished with 33 points (14/31, 14 assists), which could have done more without villains 1/8 behind the arc and 4/9 on free throws. In full doubt on this line, he even exceeded 13 regulatory seconds to draw one and the referees prevented him from doing so. When in the second, he finished with 35 points (15 rebounds) and was the one who took matters into his own hands in the last two minutes, scoring three times when no one could do it. Before ensuring the result on free throws after a crucial basket from Jrue Holiday (9 pts). “We were both ready. We were able to compete. I hope we can do it again in the fourth game, ”responded Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Opposite, Kevin Durant had the three-point equalizer, but a green tide hit him to hamper him and it worked. Not always adroit (11/28) but unfazed, the winger was still solid with 30 points (11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 interceptions). It was in his wake that Brooklyn, without panicking, made its comeback, before taking the advantage at the end of the third quarter (65-64).
Bucks fans feared the comeback would prove to be a winner, but the sequel was a big defensive battle. Without Kyrie Irving (22 pts, at 9/22), another fatal weapon of the Nets in the money-time, does not manage to be, under the eyes of James Harden, helpless because of his injured right thigh. “It’s interesting to see that we lose a game because of our offense. It was a difficult evening. We didn’t manage to find a good rhythm, ”commented their coach Steve Nash.
Jazz keeps the tempo
Author of 45 points in the first game, Donovan Mitchell this time scored “only” 37. He first traced the road to Utah’s success for three quarters, then made the baskets and free throws needed in the dying seconds. Because the Jazz, in front throughout the match, went about it three times to outrun LA, leading 21 lengths at the start of the 3rd quarter (76-55), then ten (93-83) after Californians were down to -4. In the fourth quarter, Jordan Clarkson (24 pts), Bogdan Bogdanovic (16 pts) and Joe Ingles (19 pts) then released the banderillas behind the arc (113-103), but the Clippers got closer again, before that Mitchell does not reject them definitively.
This winning accordion game, based on 20 baskets (out of 39 attempted) at long distance, Utah also owes it to Rudy Gobert, who largely justified his 3rd title of best defender in the league (13 pts, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 interceptions). “We remained united, we played hard until the end of 48 minutes,” commented the Frenchman, not without joking, stressing that he is the only one of his team not to shoot at three points. “These shots, I keep them for later,” he warned, laughing.
On the Clippers side, Reggie Jackson (29 pts) took over from Kawhi Leonard (21 pts), still hampered by the opposing defense. Another reason for satisfaction, Paul George (27 pts, 10 rebounds) was finally wanting in attack. But this trio was not enough. Everyone will need to be at work on Saturday in Los Angeles if they want to shake up a very close-knit collective.