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Milwaukee rolls, forces Game 7

by The Associated. Press | June 18, 2021 at 2:11 a.m.
Brooklyn Nets' James Harden, right, is guarded by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks refused to fold under pressure and wouldn't allow Kevin Durant to produce one more remarkable comeback that could end their second-round playoff series.

Middleton set a career playoff high with 38 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 30 and the Milwaukee Bucks never trailed in a 104-89 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night to force a decisive seventh game.

Game 7 will be Saturday night in Brooklyn. The home team has won each of the first six games in this series.

"We don't think about any type of pressure at all," Middleton said. "It's a basketball game. It's as simple as that. I know it's lose-or-go-home, but at the same time, it's just basketball. You've got to have fun with it. Those moments are fun, you know, when the game's on the line."

Milwaukee bounced back two nights after blowing a 17-point lead in a 114-108 Game 5 loss at Brooklyn that featured an epic 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist performance from Durant.

The Bucks shot just 7 of 33 from three-point range but made up for it by outscoring the Nets 26-4 in fast-break points.

"It definitely hurt us," Nets Coach Steve Nash said of the fast-break points. "That's where they're really strong. I thought we had some problems getting back in transition."

Durant occasionally seemed on the verge of leading the Nets back once again Thursday.

He scored 10 consecutive Nets points during one third-quarter stretch as Brooklyn narrowed a 14-point deficit to five. He sparked a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter that got the margin down to five again.

Each time, Middleton responded by making a basket or getting to the free-throw line.

"You know in those moments, he's going to make the right play," Antetokounmpo said. "We know that when he feels good, we've got to give him the ball."

Middleton shot 11 of 16 from the floor and 11 of 12 on free-throw attempts and had 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. Antetokounmpo shot 12 of 20 and had 17 rebounds. Jrue Holiday added 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden added 16 points for Brooklyn but still looked as though he was at far less than full strength in his second game since returning from a hamstring injury.

Harden had left Game 1 in the opening minute with right hamstring tightness and returned in Game 5 but shot 1 of 10 and scored just five points.

"I'm out there to do whatever it takes to win," Harden said. "I've got to be better on both ends of the ball, which I will be in Game 7."

Brooklyn cut Milwaukee's lead to 72-67 with 1:27 left in the third when Harden made two free throws after getting fouled on a three-point shot. Middleton restored Milwaukee's double-digit advantage by scoring the last six points of the third quarter, including a putback at the buzzer.

Milwaukee extended the lead to 15 early in the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn stormed back again when Joe Harris' three-pointer made it 82-77 with 8:41 left. Middleton again responded, drawing a foul on Harris while shooting a three-pointer and making all three free throws.

"He's a shot maker," Durant said. "You see the shot go through the basket, you get more confidence. He made timely shots for them."

Middleton's free throws started a 14-0 run that included seven points from Antetokounmpo. The two-time MVP capped the spurt by converting an offensive rebound into a dunk with 6:24 left.

"As I've said all year long, we're built for this moment, simple as that," Antetokounmpo said. "Nobody says it's going to be easy. It might be hard. But we're capable of doing it."

At a glance

NBA PLAYOFFS SECOND ROUND

(Best-of-7; x-if necessary)

THURSDAY’S GAME

Milwaukee 104, Brooklyn 89

Series tied 3-3

TODAY’S GAMES

All times Central

Philadelphia at Atlanta, 6:30 p.m.

Atlanta leads series 3-2

Utah at LA Clippers, 9 p.m.

LA Clippers lead series 3-2

SATURDAY’S GAME

Milwaukee at Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m.

SUNDAY’S GAMES

x-Atlanta at Philadelphia, TBD

x-LA Clippers at Utah, TBD

Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton shoots over Brooklyn forward Joe Harris (12) on Thursday during the Bucks’ 104-89 victory over the Nets in Milwaukee. Middleton scored a game-high 38 points for the Bucks, who forced a Game 7 in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday.
(AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton shoots over Brooklyn forward Joe Harris (12) on Thursday during the Bucks’ 104-89 victory over the Nets in Milwaukee. Middleton scored a game-high 38 points for the Bucks, who forced a Game 7 in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday. (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (shown) and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 104-89 on Thursday night to force a Game 7 in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series. Khris Middleton had 38 points and 10 rebounds, while Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Bucks. 
(AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (shown) and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 104-89 on Thursday night to force a Game 7 in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series. Khris Middleton had 38 points and 10 rebounds, while Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Bucks. (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) shoots next to Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) shoots next to Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) dunks in front of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) dunks in front of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, center, drives against Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, right, during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, center, drives against Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, right, during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) walks away after scoring and being fouled by Brooklyn Nets' James Harden during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) walks away after scoring and being fouled by Brooklyn Nets' James Harden during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton, foreground, reacts during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series  against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton, foreground, reacts during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, front right, speaks to Khris Middleton at the end of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, front right, speaks to Khris Middleton at the end of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green (8) during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green (8) during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Print Headline: Milwaukee rolls, forces Game 7

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