The Brooklyn Nets displayed plenty of offense and started the Eastern Conference semifinals with two home wins. Then, in Game 3, they found themselves in a defensive struggle straight out of the late-1990s and still nearly won.
The Nets hope to locate their offense while the Bucks aim to produce another strong defensive showing when the teams play Game 4 on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee.
Brooklyn got off to a fast start with a 115-107 win in the series opener on June 5 and a 125-86 win two days later. It is a similar scenario as its first-round series against the Boston Celtics, when the Nets won the first two games at home and dropped a close decision in Game 3.
The Nets hope Sunday goes just as well as Game 4 against Boston when they erupted for 141 points and closed out the series in five games. A win in Game 4 would give the Nets an opportunity to finish the series in Game 5 on Tuesday in Brooklyn.
Milwaukee got back in the series Thursday when it held on for an 86-83 victory, and a win on Sunday guarantees it hosts Game 6. The Bucks seemed headed for a blowout victory when they held a 30-11 lead after the opening quarter, however they held on for the win after Kevin Durant’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Jrue Holiday hit the game-winning layup with 11.4 seconds left as Milwaukee survived its lowest point total of the season, shooting 37.8 percent and misfiring on 25 of 31 3-point tries.
“For us to have the big first quarter and then things change, and for us to find a way to win a game, your character is tested in the playoffs,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “(Our) character is tested coming into the game and this group has high character and they responded. Now we just got to fill our cup and do it again on Sunday.”
The best news for Milwaukee might have been the big night produced by Khris Middleton, who totaled 35 points and 15 rebounds on 12-of-25 shooting. Middleton produced the second-highest scoring postseason game of his career after shooting 30.2 percent (13 of 43) from the field in the first two games.
“It’s just a matter of staying with it,” Middleton said. “Taking some of the same shots. Just having the confidence to knock it in.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points on 14 of 31 shooting and also continued to struggle from 3-point range by missing seven of eight attempts. He is shooting 49.3 percent in the postseason but is 4-for-32 from behind the arc in seven postseason games so far.
The Nets will be without James Harden for a third straight game since he exited the series opener just 43 seconds in with right hamstring tightness. They will hope they can better survive his absence Sunday after shooting 36.2 percent from the field in Game 4.
Durant scored 30 points and Kyrie Irving added 22 but the duo was a combined 20 of 50 from the field. The Nets also had little help beyond their stars as Bruce Brown added 16. However, Joe Harris shot 1 of 11 and was held to three points.
“Game 4 should be special,” Irving said. “We’ve just got to be able to respond better. And that’s just due to our preparation and our game planning, a few different things that we probably are looking back at film that were out of our control and a lot of things that were in our control. Game 4, I don’t think it’ll be the same flow.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.