Bucks lose Giannis but beat Heat in OT to stay in NBA playoffs
Miami (AFP) –
Khris Middleton starred as the Milwaukee Bucks, their backs against the wall and star Giannis Antetokounmpo injured, beat the Miami Heat 118-115 in overtime on Sunday to stay alive in the NBA playoffs.
With reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo ruled out after aggravating his sprained right ankle in the first half, Middleton stepped up to score 36 points -- including nine of the Bucks' 11 in overtime.
A Middleton three-pointer put Milwaukee up 116-112 with 6.9 seconds left in the extra session. Miami rookie Tyler Herro drained a three-pointer to close the gap to 116-115 before Middleton made two free throws to seal the win.
Middleton led six Bucks players to score in double figures in the must-win game.
Milwaukee, the Eastern Conference top seeds after posting the league's best regular-season record, trimmed the deficit in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final to 3-1.
They still have a mountain to climb as they try to become the first NBA team to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a series.
Antetokounmpo had rolled his right ankle in the Bucks' game-three defeat and twisted it again and went down hard in the second quarter.
He stayed in the game and shot two free throws, making one, before limping to the locker room, clearly emotional as he was assisted by team personnel.
The Bucks, leading 50-48 at halftime, announced that he would not return to the game.
It was a huge blow for the Bucks. Antetokounmpo has already been named the league's defensive player of the year and is a heavy favorite to scoop a second straight MVP award after averaging 29.5 points per game, 13.6 rebounds and 56 assists.
But Middleton came through in his absence, scoring 21 points in the third quarter to send the Bucks into the final frame trailing by three.
Middleton was 0-for-6 in the fourth, but Brook Lopez poured in 10 for the Bucks and after Herro put the Heat up 107-106 with a three-pointer Milwaukee's Donte DiVicenzo drained one of two free throws to force overtime.
© 2020 AFP