After struggling with his shot in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Hawks, Khris Middleton finally came alive at the right time, and that time was the fourth quarter of Game 3.
Middleton scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 113-102 on Sunday night at State Farm Arena to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 is on Tuesday night in Atlanta.
In the first two games of the series, Middleton, who also added 11 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday night, scored a combined 30 points, and he almost did that in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Middleton is the first Bucks player with 20 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game over the last 25 postseasons.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists, but tonight was about Middleton.
“Some games it’s me, some games it’s Giannis(Antetokounmpo), some games it’s Jrue(Holiday),” Middleton said. “We all have a great feel about who has it going, who has the best matchup, and who can create the best looks. When it’s my turn or my time to have it, I’m thinking the same way: just try to get the best shot up for everybody.”
Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “Greatness. Greatness. What I saw today was unbelievable. He was freaking unbelievable. Carried the team at the end. Man, like he turned the ball over two times, and after that, he was locked in and like “pass me the ball,” and we gave him the ball. There’s moments that is we know when to set screens for him, and we know when he wants the ball, and that was the moment. We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball, take us home, Khris, and that’s what he did.”
Trae Young led the Hawks with 35 points and four assists, but he injured his ankle late in the third quarter after he stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot. Young, who is expected to get an MRI on Monday, returned in the fourth quarter, but he was clearly limited.
“It was really my blow-by speed,” Young said. “That’s a big part of my game, my ability to blow by anybody. When you’re on the left side, and you’re trying to blow by, you’ve got to use your right foot. So my left-hand pass to Bogey — I was going down the left side; it was in a lot of pain going back. Like I said, it’s more just the push-off and the blow-by….
“When I came back in, it was kind of sore. It made me mad I couldn’t really go as fast as I wanted to, and when I did, it hurt. So I’ve just got to get treatment and hopefully get it better for the next game.”
If Young is not healthy, the Hawks don’t have a shot in this series. It’s a tough break for Young and the Hawks, but again, Game 3 was all about the greatness of Middleton.