Bucks’ Middleton: When he’s(Antetokounmp) rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball’

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had another big-time performance in the NBA Finals, and this time, it translated to a victory. The two-time MVP had his second straight 40-point game in this series and scored 41 points, including 13/17 from the free-throw line, to go along with a team-high 13 rebounds and six assists as the Bucks routed the Suns 120-100 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on Sunday night.

Antetokounmpo, who had 42 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2, and Shaquille O’Neal are the only two players in NBA history with 40-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in back-to-back Finals games.

“When he’s rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball, give him his space and allow him to go to work,” Khris Middleton, who had 21 points, seven assists, and six assists on Sunday, said about Antetokounmpo. 

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added on Antetokounmpo: “He’s just doing whatever it takes to help his team, to help us. He’s in an aggressive mindset. He always plays that way. But I thought he played with the pass well. He made some great reads, found guys, played against the zone. He just did a little bit of everything. Offensive boards, putbacks. We need a lot from him, and that’s what he does.”

Phoenix still leads the series 2-1, and Game 4 is on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Game 3 was a must-win situation for Milwaukee. The Bucks were down 0-2 against the Nets in the second-round, but won the series in 7.

Milwaukee did what they needed to do on Sunday night, which Antetokounmpo discussed postgame.

“We know what kind of game this was going to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew that if we lose the game, you are in the hole, 3-0 or whatever the case might be. We knew that we had to come here and play great basketball, so I knew that.”

The Bucks shot ten more free throws(26-16) than Phoenix in Game 3, and Suns C Deandre Ayton, who had 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter and nine rebounds on Sunday night, was saddled with foul trouble. While he did not want to complain about the officiating, Suns head coach Monty Williams pointed out the free-throw disparity. 

“I’m not going to get into the complaining publicly about fouls. Just not going to do that,” Williams said. “But you can look — we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17.”

Devin Booker struggled with his shot in Game 3 and was 3/14 from the field with 10 points, but the two-time All-Star expects to bounce back in Game 4.

“It wasn’t well, obviously,” Booker said. “But there’s nights like that. The most important part to me is winning the game, and we didn’t do that, so I’m more frustrated about that. But we have a few days off here. We’re going to get back right and going to go over film and be ready Wednesday.”

This effort was expected out of Milwaukee in Game 3. It should be interesting to see Phoenix’s response in Game 4. However, the Bucks, who are 8-1 at home this postseason, are back in this series.

Notes:

-Jrue Holiday had his best performance of the series on Sunday night. Holiday had 21 points, nine assists, and five assists. 

-Chris Paul led the Suns with 19 points and nine assists in Game 3. With the loss on Sunday night, Paul is now 0-12 when Scott Foster officiates his games in the playoffs.

Booker on Paul: ‘So, every time he shoots it, we think it’s going in’

The Phoenix Suns are in the NBA Finals because of their big three of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, and those three were huge in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Monday night at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Paul had 32 points and nine assists, Booker scored 27 points, and Deandre Ayton added 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Suns defeated the Buck 118-105.

Phoenix had six players in double figures.

The trio combined for 81 points, each scoring 20-plus points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight marked the fourth time in NBA Finals history that three or more teammates, each making their Finals debut, scored 20-plus points in the same game.

The third quarter was all about Paul, who was 6/7 from the field, including 3/3 from three-point range to score 16 points. After leading by eight points at halftime, the Suns were able to push their lead to as much as 20 points in the third because of Paul.

“When it’s going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Paul after the game. “I thought he was making the right plays. They were switching a ton, and we have to offer that space and play faster if he gets off of the ball. But he was making shots, and when he’s in that mode, we just feed off of that. But I don’t have a marker or a segment in the game where I’m like, here he goes. It just happens. Our guys feed off of those moments in the game.”

Phoenix had a lot of success on the pick-and-roll, and according to Booker, the Suns wanted to take advantage of any switches on defense from Milwaukee.

“We have to punish teams for switching 1 through 5 like that,” Booker said. “Like I just heard Chris say, we prepare for any type of defense, and we watch a lot of basketball, and where we have been most successful in that situation is space out. So, every time he(Paul) shoots it, we think it’s going in.”

Paul added: “We just feed off of each other, and it just sort of all game long — this guy, that guy, and we just try to find a way to win.”

Milwaukee did get Giannis Antetokounmpo back for Game 1 of the NBA Finals after he missed the last two games of the Eastern Conference finals due to a hyperextended left knee. Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds on Tuesday night.

“It was tough. You know, obviously, I had to do my best to get back,” Antetokounmpo said. “I had to do my best to get back. Listen to my medical staff. I did the right treatment. Took care of my body and supported my teammates, and now I’m back.”

Antetokounmpo is back, which is good, but Milwaukee is going to have to do a better job on their pick-and-roll defense in Game 2. As stated numerous times in the playoffs, it’s all about adjustments, and the Bucks will have to make adjustments in Game 2 on Thursday night in Phoenix.

Notes:

-Khris Middleton scored a team-high 29 points tonight to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Middleton shot 12-of-26 from the field and knocked down 5 of his 12 three-point attempts. His 26 field goal attempts tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the fourth-most field goal attempts by a Bucks player in an NBA Finals game in franchise history.

-Mikal Bridges added 14 points tonight, his 11th game of this postseason with 10-plus points and first since Game 3 against the Clippers on June 24. The Suns are 10-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

-Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne both came off the bench tonight to each score 10 points in the win. Both knocked down 2 three-pointers, while Johnson added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. 

-Phoenix took advantage of the free-throw line on Tuesday night. The Suns were 25/26(96.2%) from line. Booker led the way going 10/10.

Bucks’ Middleton: ‘Honestly, it’s been a long journey, but it’s been a great journey’

After 47 years, the Milwaukee Bucks are back in the NBA Finals. Khris Middleton scored 23 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter, and Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at State Farm Arena on Saturday night.

Milwaukee wins the series 4-2, and now, they get ready for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

Despite not having Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed Games 5 and 6 due to a hyperextended left knee, the Bucks found a way. Getting to the NBA Finals was not an easy journey for the Bucks, which their head coach Mike Budenholzer discussed after the game.

“Yeah, what a roller coaster of emotions, especially this series,” Budenholzer said. “But the series before and opening with Miami, and how good they are. So just impressed with the resilience of the group, the character of the group. They just have a focus, and an edge that’s put us in a good place put us in an opportunity to keep playing. And so you’ve got to deal with all those emotions, everything that goes into each round, and this group has been able to do that. It’s impressive, but we’ve got more to do.”

Middleton and Antetokounmpo came into the NBA together with the Bucks, and the two went through the highs and lows in Milwaukee, including some playoff disappointments over the years, to get to this point. Middleton reflected on that journey following the victory.

“Honestly, it’s been a long journey, but it’s been a great journey,” Middleton said. “It’s been worth it. We put ourselves in position to be in the NBA Finals. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough, and now we’re here. This is what we’ve work for. Extremely happy that we’re still playing.

According to Holiday, this journey to the Finals is a story he will tell his children.

“Man, it’s been — it’s a story that I get to tell my kids, and it’s a story I get to tell people, and that’s one of the coolest things,” Holiday said. “Playing against the Heat and what we did against them; and then coming back against Brooklyn, one of the most talented teams in the league, or ever, honestly, against one of the best, what, top three of the greatest scorers of our game; and then a great Atlanta team, a young team but that have some crucial players.”

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks missed the playoffs. This season, the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference finals, which unexpected to many, so no matter what happened in Eastern Conference finals, this season was a success. According to Trae Young, who returned and had 14 points and nine assists on Saturday after missing Games 4 and 5 with a foot injury, Atlanta wants to keep this winning vibe going.

“I definitely feel like this is a start,” Young said. “I mean, this is the beginning. We’ve accomplished so much this year, but just the guys in the locker room, the young guys, we all understand that this is just the beginning. It’s fun. We had the city excited. We want to keep it this way.”

The Bucks move on to the NBA Finals against the Suns, and if they can get Antetokounmpo back, and he is fairly healthy, maybe they beat Phoenix. If they don’t get the two-time MVP back, winning an NBA title will be tough for Milwaukee.

Bucks’ Tucker: ‘It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses’

Coming into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Atlanta Hawks knew they would be without their star guard Trae Young(bruised right foot) against the Bucks. However, Milwaukee lost its star player and could be without him the rest of the way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo left Game 4 with just over seven minutes to go in the third quarter and did not return after he hyperextended his left knee trying to block Clint Capela’s shot. The two-time MVP did come back to the bench but had a noticeable limp and returned to the locker room.

After Antetokounmpo’s injury, the Hawks, who led the Bucks by 10 when Antetokounmpo went out of the game, outscored the Bucks 25-10 the rest of the third quarter. Atlanta would take a 25-point lead into the fourth quarter and ultimately defeat the Bucks 110-88 at State Farm Arena to tie the series at 2.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Without Young, Lou Williams, the three-time 6th-man of the year award winner, got his first career postseason start on Tuesday night, and Williams had a game-high 21 points and eight assists.

“When superstar caliber guys go out, you put some other guys in the game, and their eyes are this wide, and they’re like this is a great opportunity for me to show and prove my abilities,” Williams said. “You don’t want to be the guys that let them off the hook because Giannis was off the floor. I think we all felt that energy, and we just ratcheted up our energy and continued to go.”

Jrue Holiday led the Bucks with 19 points, to go along with nine assists and five rebounds. According to Holiday, without Antetokounmpo, everybody else has to step up.

“I think just based off of how he was grabbing his leg, it seemed like it was pretty bad,” Holiday said. “So from there, you are concerned, and you don’t want to see anybody, especially a teammate, get hurt, but you kind of have to shift to somebody has to step up. Multiple people have to step up.”

P.J. Tucker, who had eight points on Tuesday night, added on Antetokounmpo: “It’s not good. Any time you see your best player go down, it’s not great. But it’s an opportunity for somebody else and everybody else to step up. It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses. It doesn’t matter whoever is playing, not playing. They’ve got guys out; everybody’s hurt, everybody’s banged up, everybody has injuries. You have to fight through it and win.”

Credit to Atlanta for the way they played in Game 4. They came out with more passion and energy than the Bucks, which is why they were able to tie this series at 2.

According to reports, Antetokounmpo is expected to get an MRI on Wednesday, so what happens with that MRI could determine how the rest of this series plays out. Depending on how things go with Young’s injury, both teams could be without their best player in Game 5.

Notes:

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has been battling right knee soreness throughout the playoffs, had a breakout game for the Hawks. He scored 20 points(6-14 from downtown) on Tuesday night.

Before Game 4,  Bogdanovic scored 20 points in the first three games of this series combined.

 

 

 

Hawks’ Young suffers bone bruise in right foot, questionable for Game 4

Hawks’ Trae Young was given an MRI on Monday, which revealed a bone bruise to his right foot, the team announced on Monday. He will be listed as questionable for tomorrow’s Eastern Conference finals Game 4 against the Bucks.

Young, who had 35 points and four assists on Sunday night, left Game 3 late in the third quarter after he stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot. 

The Hawks’ star was able to return in the fourth quarter, but he was clearly bothered by the injury.

The Bucks lead the series 2-1.

Antetokounmpo on Middleton: ‘We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball’

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. 

Bucks shutdown Young, defeat Hawks in Game 2

The Milwaukee Bucks dominated the Atlanta Hawks from start to finish in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Milwaukee, who never trailed in this game, led by as many as 41 points and would defeat Atlanta 125-91 at Fiserv Forum on Friday night to tie the series at 1.

Milwaukee took complete control of this game in the second quarter. The Bucks shot 78% from the field in the quarter and outscored the Hawks 43-17. 

Jrue Holiday had 14 of his 22 points in the second. The Bucks would go on a 20-0 run in the quarter and led 77-45 at halftime. In the words of the great Marv Albert, it was extended garbage time from there, especially in the fourth quarter when both teams’ starters were on the bench.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. After losing Game 1, the two-time MVP knew Milwaukee needed to get Game 2.

“I think everybody is on the same page,” Antetokounmpo said postgame. “We know what we’ve got to do. And everybody knew that we’ve got to come in here and get this game.”

Khris Middleton, who had 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds on Friday night, felt Milwaukee needed to be more physical in Game 2.

“So tonight, we wanted to set the tone,” he said. “Just make sure they weren’t going to be comfortable. We wanted to be physical with them, do it without fouling, of course; that was just the main message tonight; the aggressiveness that we didn’t have from Game 1 needs to be here in Game 2.”

Trae Young had 48 points and 11 assists in the Hawks’ Game 1 victory, but Game 2 was a different story. Young struggled with his shot(6-16) and finished with 15 points, six assists, and nine turnovers. Holiday, with assistance from Brook Lopez on the pick-and-rolls, limited Young. 

“I think just mix it up, make it difficult for him,” Holiday said about Young. “Not get too many easy looks. Last game, he was living in the paint. Had a lot of floaters. Was pretty much there for him. We didn’t really want to get him started early, and I don’t think he went to the free-throw line much tonight, which is also pretty big for us.”

Young felt the officials allowed the Bucks to be more physical with him in Game 2.

They didn’t do anything too much different,” Young said. “They just played more aggressive. It was just more aggressive, and Scott (Foster) and them allowed more to go tonight. Just got to be better and be able to respond a lot better.”

The NBA is a game of adjustments, and the Bucks adjusted and played better on Friday night. Now, the series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4. We’ll see what adjustments both teams make at State Farm Arena. Game 3 is on Sunday night.

Hawks’ McMillan: ‘What I respect about Trae(Young), he’s going to always stay aggressive’

Trae Young has taken full advantage of his first playoff experience, and if you did not think he was a star before the playoffs, your mind has probably been changed.

Young had a playoff career-high 48 points, to go along with 11 assists, and seven rebounds as the Hawks defeated the Bucks 116-113 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.

Game 2 is on Friday night in Milwaukee.

According to StatMuse, the 22-year-old Young is only player with at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game, and his 48 points is the most points in a conference finals’ debut. In addition, Young’s 48 points tied LeBron James for the most points by a player age 22 or younger in a Conference or Division finals game, according to ESPN Stats & Info

Young scored or assisted on 72 of Atlanta’s 116 points, and according to Elias Sports, that is the most in a Conference or Division Finals game all-time.

“What I respect about Trae, he’s going to always stay aggressive,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. “He continued to stay aggressive and take his shots, and tonight those shots were falling for him. I thought he did a good job of, again, reading the defense and getting the ball and putting the ball in the hands of guys who had their matchups.”

Young added: “I’ve seen pretty much every defense. It’s really just figuring out what type of defense they’re showing that night. So I’m not surprised. For me, it’s just trying to make the right read and figure out how they’re going to guard. They guard a certain way and just trying to make plays and attack that way.”

For the third straight series, Atlanta won Game 1 on the road, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Hawks are the first team to win Game 1 on the road in three series within a postseason since the 1998-99 Knicks (excluding the bubble last season). In addition, Atlanta is 6-2 on the road in these playoffs.

“We didn’t get a high seed, so we’ve got to try to steal one on the road,” Young said. “Game 1 is definitely a game that you can really surprise that team. I think with the way we’ve been playing coming out of the gate; you can just tell we’re really focused on our attention to details when it comes to the other team.”

John Collins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in Game 1, added on team’s success on the road: ‘I feel like it definitely puts some respect on our name for sure. Going into hostile environments and coming out with victories in Game 1 is definitely something to be proud of. I feel like it’s prepared us for moments like this right now.”

The Hawks and Young are for real, and now after stealing Game 1 against the Bucks, Atlanta got the split that they needed, and Young’s stature in the league continues to grow.

Notes:

-Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists on Wednesday night, and Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

-Collins and Young had the highlight of the game when Young threw a lob pass off the glass to Collins, who finished it with a dunk in the third quarter. Young discussed the play after the game.

“Yeah, like we said in the locker room, he(Collins) knew it was coming,” Young said. “He knew the difference between one of my floaters and one of my passes off the backboard. That’s just the connection we have, the type of chemistry we have. So it’s fun playing with him.”

Watch play below:

 

 

 

 

NBA players react to Kevin Durant’s epic performance against Milwaukee

The Brooklyn Nets needed Kevin Durant to be extra special and then some on Tuesday night, and he was all of that and maybe a little more.

Without Kyrie Irving and a limited James Harden, Durant put on a performance for the ages. The former MVP had a triple-double with 49 points on 16/23 shooting, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Nets rallied to defeat the Bucks 114-108 at Barclays Center in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.  

Durant, who played all 48 minutes, became the first player in NBA playoff history to have 45-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, and 10-plus assists in a game. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Durant’s 49 points are the second-most in a triple-double game in playoff history.

“I was trying to win each possession,” Durant said after the game. “And I didn’t think of how many points I had or shot attempts, rebounds, assists.”

The Nets have a 3-2 series lead, and Game 6 is on Thursday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks, who had a 17-point third-quarter lead, will be kicking themselves all summer long if they lose this series. This was a golden opportunity for Milwaukee to put themselves in a position to close out the series in Game 6. Now, they have to win two straight, including one at Barclays Center, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Regarding Durant, this might have been his signature moment. The Nets needed every one of his 49 points on Tuesday night. However, with Harden still not looking one-hundred-percent and Irving probably out for the series, Durant might need to have another big performance for Brooklyn to advance.

Don’t bet against the greatness of Durant. He has the potential to do this again, and don’t bet against the Bucks.

This series is not over!

 NBA players from around the league were impressed by Durant’s special performance: