After much of that streak was dominated by talk of his wayward jump shot, Antetokounmpo assured Milwaukee would survive and force a Game 7 Saturday night in Brooklyn relentlessly forcing his way to the edge.
The result? Milwaukee secured a 104-89 victory while Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points, 17 rebounds and three assists in 41 minutes, all without taking a single 3-point shot.
“This is how it happened,” Antetokounmpo said. “I didn’t shoot a 3 tonight, but I’m just trying to be aggressive. Go down, make the right play, I think there was maybe a play or two, I was open at the 3 point line and maybe I could have Shooted it.
“But what I do know is that I like the game when I’m aggressive, when I can go down and I can involve my teammates, and when I play with my strength. That’s when I enjoy the game the most, and that’s what I try to do. “
He certainly did in Game 6 – and, for the Bucks, with great results. Of the 12 Antetokounmpo baskets on Thursday night, 11 entered the paint and 10 were in the restricted area, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. His 5.6-foot average field goal distance was his lowest of the playoffs.
“Giannis’ entry into the game was well placed,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Get him where he attacks and creates for his teammates, creates for himself. He arrived today in a good place, and we have to stay there before the seventh game. “
Antetokounmpo’s state of mind was indicative of the approach the Bucks collectively took to this elimination game. Budenholzer leaned heavily on his stars, essentially playing a six-man rotation until both teams cleared their benches for the final minutes. Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton (38 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals) and Jrue Holiday (21 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals) combined to tie Brooklyn’s 89 points alone. Milwaukee dominated the transition, passing Brooklyn 26-4 in counterattack points, and the Bucks shot twice as many free throws as the Nets.
Add it all up and the Bucks were able to continue the trend for both teams to win their home games in this series, ensuring a winning showdown at Barclays Center 48 hours later.
“We didn’t seem like we had a ton of energy all night long,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I think we wanted it. We just couldn’t find it. And when you can’t find that beat, it makes it even harder, and so it’s kinda chicken and egg. Is the rhythm because you don’t have the energy, or is it made worse because you don’t have the rhythm?
“It just wasn’t our best game. We didn’t play well. … Now it is a question of how we react. “
The Bucks set the tone for how the game would go from the start of the game. Antetokounmpo opened the game with a layup to give Milwaukee a lead he would never give up with a streak victory. He continued to attack, scoring seven points in an 18-5 run that gave Milwaukee an immediate cushion and helped erase some of the harsh memories of Brooklyn returning from a 16-point deficit to win. the match 5.
Brooklyn periodically made efforts to get back into the game, and it wasn’t until the final moments when both benches emptied that the game really came to an end, especially since the Nets had Kevin Durant on their feet. disposition.
But with Durant still leading Brooklyn with 32 points on Thursday night, it took him 30 shots to make it, a far cry from the scintillating 49-of-16-of-23 shots he set up for the Nets in their stunning victory in the fifth game.
“I wasn’t even trying to duplicate [Game 5] Durant said. “I was just trying to go out there and play every possession. I’m not trying to be a hero there. I know I can’t win a basketball game on my own, so I’m just trying to play the right way, take the punches that are there. For some of them I felt like I was rushing to try and get back into the flow and change the momentum a bit, but for the most part I thought I was being aggressive and putting pressure on defense.
“I have to keep the ball a bit more in my hands, but being aggressive is always positive for us, especially when I’m going down. I try not to duplicate big nights like this. I’m just trying to let the game flow. and tonight was not our night. “
As several Bucks took turns trying to slow down the advance of the entire world, it was PJ Tucker who landed the main mission again. And although he finished with just 3 points on a 1v6 shot, Tucker was a plus-30, a top in the game, both doing a great job giving Durant everything he could handle. by performing several stir games crucial to expanding possessions.
“Look, Kevin Durant is maybe the top scorer of our generation,” Tucker said. “He’s going to score the ball a lot. Everyone knows it. I don’t know why people act like it’s a surprise. It is a daunting task for anyone. I don’t think anyone can stop it.
“But what you can do is try to make it work. “
Beyond Durant’s heroism, the other story of Game 5 was James Harden’s surprising return from the hamstring injury he suffered at the start of Game 1. And though he still looked like not the player he usually is, he was more involved and efficient in Match 6, scoring 16 points, including 14 in the first half, to go along with five rebounds, seven assists and four steals in 40 minutes.
“It’s not even a rust issue,” Harden said. “It’s about being able to move, and I think as I go from day to day I keep improving.
“The last game, Game 5, was the first day I made a move like that since I got injured, so tonight was no different, you know? I’m here to do whatever it takes to win. I have to be better on both sides of the ball, which I will be in the seventh game. “
Milwaukee’s goal entering Thursday night was simply to make sure Game 7 was played. And, after the disappointment the Bucks felt after letting Game 5 slip away, Antetokounmpo made sure to set the tone and lead his team to Saturday’s clash in Brooklyn.
Now that the Bucks have come this far, he said, they’ll be ready to take the opportunity.
“We knew what kind of game it was, and there was only one option: to win the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew that if we didn’t win the game our season would be over, and we talked about it a few times in the locker room between the guys that it wouldn’t be easy.
“Like I’ve said throughout the year, we’re built for this moment. It’s as simple as that. Nobody said it was easy. It might be difficult. But we are able to do it. So everyone had a great time. state of mind, came to play, came to compete, and hopefully we can do that in the seventh game. ”