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The Bucks Escaped A Game 3 Rock Fight With A Home Win Over The Nets

Game 2 of the second round series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks was not competitive, as the Nets led by as many as 49 points and cruised to a win that gave them a 2-0 series edge. As such, the Bucks faced an immense sense of urgency in Thursday’s Game 3 in what amounted to a must-win situation. While it was far from pretty, Milwaukee managed to secure their first victory of the series, outlasting Brooklyn by a three-point margin to climb back into the series.

At the outset, the Bucks threw an opening haymaker that put them in a favorable position. Milwaukee scored the first nine points and, with the Nets failing to score until the 8:07 mark (missing seven straight shots), the Bucks eventually pushed their lead to 16-4 in the opening minutes.

After the Nets stabilized, at least to some degree, the Bucks had another spurt, scoring 10 points in a row. Brooklyn’s offensive struggles compounded with another lengthy scoring drought, and Milwaukee led by as many as 21 points at 30-9.

Overall, the Nets shot just 5-of-25 in the first quarter, including 1-of-9 from three. Milwaukee wasn’t incredibly hot, but Giannis Antetokounpo and Khris Middleton combined to score all of the team’s 30 points (15 each), and the star power was needed.

Brooklyn did come alive to begin the second quarter, scoring the first seven points of the period and cutting the deficit to 12 points.

Following a timeout by Milwaukee, Brooklyn didn’t stop their onslaught. The Nets put together a 17-2 overall run, turning a 21-point deficit into a six-point margin short order.

Beyond the obvious slippage on the scoreboard, the Bucks also had a hiccup when Antetokounmpo was called for a 10-second violation at the free throw line. As a reminder, this game took place in Milwaukee.

The Bucks scored just three points over a nine-period stretch, giving back the majority of their early gains. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown helped to key the comeback, slashing the margin to as few as two points before halftime.

Despite their second quarter hiccups, Milwaukee did take the lead into the break. Much of that could be traced to stellar play from Middleton, who bounced back from struggles in Brooklyn with 20 points in the first half.

While the first half was marked by a big swing in the direction of each team, the third quarter settled in with the feel of a rock fight. Neither team was scoring even a point per possession through three quarters, and while competitive, the proceedings were a bit ugly. Brooklyn did tie the game for the first time at 57-57 with five minutes left in the third quarter, and the Nets also took their first lead of the game (!) at 65-64 within the final minute. Milwaukee benefitted from a three-shot foul, though, and the Bucks held a two-point edge as the fourth quarter arrived.

There were fireworks in the third quarter, though, but they didn’t come in the form of explosive offense. Instead, it was a dust-up involving double technical fouls for Kevin Durant and P.J. Tucker, complete with significant security involvement.

Early in the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo (finally) got a three-pointer to fall. After missing his first six attempts from long range, the two-time MVP connected to give the Bucks a 74-70 lead.

In the ensuing moments, Milwaukee had opportunities to build on their edge as Brooklyn endured a cold snap. Instead, the Bucks also stalled and, after a turnover-fueled stretch, the Nets tied the game and forced the Bucks to call timeout with 7:21 remaining. From there, a game that was already a rock fight took things to a different level, as neither team scored from the 6:09 mark until the 2:40 mark when Middleton buried a jumper to break a 76-76 tie.

By the modest standards of this contest, the dam then broke, with Middleton and Durant both making two jumpers in a row to keep the score knotted at 80-80. Milwaukee then had an empty trip, but Durant wasn’t ready to let up, as he converted a three-pointer (capping a seven-point burst in 62 seconds) to give the Nets the lead with 1:23 to go.

Out of a timeout, the Bucks scored the next four points, capped by a whirling layup from Jrue Holiday to give Milwaukee a one-point lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

In fitting fashion for what was largely an unsightly game, Brooklyn endured a broken play on the ensuing possession. The end result was a contested shot for Brown that went begging and, after two fouls, Middleton connected on two free throws with 2.1 seconds left that gave the Bucks a 86-83 lead.

Brooklyn did have one final look at a tie, but Durant was forced into a very difficult attempt that clanged off the back rim. That allowed Milwaukee to escape despite a substandard offensive performance.

Milwaukee shot just 38 percent from the floor and 6-of-31 from three-point range in the win. Still, Middleton (35 points, 15 rebounds) and Antetokounmpo (33 points, 14 rebounds) did their part to grind through a victory, keeping the Bucks in the mix. For the Nets, it was an uncharacteristic offensive showing, but they did continue to show an uptick in their defensive baseline, and Game 4 will be pivotal on all sides when it arrives on Sunday.

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