NBA playoffs

Bucks lose Giannis but beat Heat in OT to stay in NBA playoffs

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Bucks lose Giannis but beat Heat in OT to stay in NBA playoffs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 06: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks exits the game after an injury during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 06, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP

Khris Middleton steps up as the Bucks survive a must-win game but lose reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to injury

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, September 6 (Monday, September 7, Philippine time) 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 9 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 6 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 semifinal to 3-1.

They still have a mountain to climb as they try to become the first NBA team to rally from a 0-3 deficit to win a series.

“We all fought,” Middleton said. “Especially with Giannis going down the way he did. He came out and tried to fight for us with a bad ankle. We wanted to have his back and just fight for him and fight for everybody.”

Antetokounmpo had rolled his right ankle in the Bucks’ Game 3 defeat and twisted it again and went down hard in the 2nd 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.

“Giannis put it all out there for us,” said Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe, who scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. “We wanted to come out and get this win by taking it one play, one possession at a time.”

Heat forward Jimmy Butler said Antetokounmpo’s exit affected Miami, too.

“It shouldn’t affect us, but I think that we relaxed a little bit,” said Butler, who scored 17 points. Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Antetokounmpo’s departure was a huge blow for the Bucks. He 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.

Not easy

But Middleton came through in his absence, scoring 21 points in the 3rd quarter to send the Bucks into the final frame trailing by just 3 points.

Middleton was 0-for-6 in the final quarter, but Brook Lopez poured in 10 of his 14 for the Bucks. 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.

Butler remained confident the Heat have what it takes to close out the series, if they bring the same urgency they did to the first 3 games.

“We did what I always say you can’t do, which is get comfortable,” he said. “We thought this one was going to be easy and it was not.”