Middleton reached a career high with 38 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 30 and the Milwaukee Bucks never trailed in a 104-89 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night to force a decisive seventh game.
Game 7 is Saturday night in Brooklyn. The home team have won each of the first six games of this series.
“We’re not thinking of any kind of pressure at all,” Middleton said. “It’s a basketball game. It’s that simple. I know it’s losing or coming home, but at the same time, it’s just basketball. You have to have fun with it. Those are fun times, you know, when the game is on the line. ”
Milwaukee bounced back two nights after losing a 17-point lead in a 114-108 Game 5 loss to Brooklyn, with an epic performance of 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists from Durant.
The Bucks shot just 7 of 33 3-pointers, but made up for it by edging out the Nets 26-4 at quick break points.
“It really hurt us,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of the counterattack points. “This is where they are really strong. I thought we had some issues getting back in transition. “
Durant looked at times poised to lead the Nets again on Thursday.
He scored 10 straight points for the Nets in a third-quarter streak as Brooklyn reduced its deficit from 14 points to five. He triggered a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter that brought the margin down to five again.
Each time, Middleton responded by making a basket or hitting the free throw line.
“You know in those times he’s going to play the right game,” Antetokounmpo said. “We know when he feels good we have to give him the ball. “
Middleton shot 11 of 16 from the floor and 11 of 12 on free throw attempts and had 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Antetokounmpo shot 12 of 20 and took 17 rebounds. Jrue Holiday added 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden added 16 points for Brooklyn, but it still looked like he wasn’t at full strength in his second game since returning from a hamstring injury.
Harden had left Game 1 in the first minute with right hamstring strain and returned in Game 5, but shot 1 of 10 and scored just five points.
“I’m here to do whatever it takes to win,” said Harden. “I have to be better on both sides of the ball, which I will be in Game 7. “
The Bucks had a 14-point lead early in the second half before Durant again sparked a third-quarter comeback, scoring 10 straight points from the Nets in one stretch.
Brooklyn reduced Milwaukee’s lead to 72-67 with 1:27 left in the third when Harden made two free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot. Middleton restored Milwaukee’s double-digit advantage by scoring the last six points of the third quarter, including a buzzer loss.
Milwaukee extended the lead to 15 early in the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn came back again with 10 straight points, as Joe Harris’ 3-pointer increased the score to 82-77 with 8:41 remaining. Middleton responded again, fouling Harris while shooting a 3-pointer and making all three free throws.
“He’s a shooter,” Durant said. “You see the shot go through the basket, you gain confidence. He made timely moves for them.
Middleton’s free throws started a 14-0 streak that included seven points for Antetokounmpo. The double MVP capped the push by converting an offensive rebound into a dunk with 6:24 left.
This dunk pretty much guaranteed these teams would meet again on Saturday. Both teams pulled out their starters with over 4 1/2 minutes remaining. As the Bucks and Nets made their way to their respective locker rooms after the sound of the final ringtone, a cheering crowd from the Fiserv Forum celebrated as the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” played through the speaker.
“Like I’ve said throughout the year, we’re built for this moment, that simple,” Antetokounmpo said. “No one is saying it will be easy. It might be hard. But we are able to do it.
Nets: The Nets have used their 41st different starting lineup (Durant, Harden, Harris, Blake Griffin and Jeff Green) of the season. They used four different starting lineups in 11 playoff games. … Durant is one of only two players to have scored at least 30 points against the Bucks at least seven times in a season (regular season and playoffs combined). Michael Jordan played seven 30-point minimum games against Milwaukee in 1989-90.
Bucks: Middleton was 5 of 8 in a 3-point range. His teammates were a combined 2 of 25.… The Bucks are 5-0 against the Nets at home this season and are 5-0 overall in the playoffs at home. They are 12-2 all-time in the playoff games at Fiserv Forum. … Antetokounmpo has 10 consecutive playoff doubles and four consecutive playoff games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.