Game Seven between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets did not disappoint. The heroic efforts of Kevin Durant weren’t enough as Milwaukee now advances to the Eastern Conference Finals after a 115-111 victory. Twenty total lead changes, ten ties, and the difference ended up being Kevin Durant’s toe on the line on a fadeaway that sent the game into overtime.
Despite some rough shooting performances in the first half from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks rallied late and proved to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Here are some takeaways from one of the greatest Game Seven battles in NBA history.
Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton Late Game Performances
Undoubtedly a rough and inconsistent series for Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
The two co-stars in Milwaukee have each had at least four games this series shooting below 39% from the floor. This kind of performance is less than optimal from a second and third option looking to win a playoff series. Their poor shooting had continued in the first half of Game Seven, with Holiday and Middleton each having shot 2-11 from the floor.
Yet, the Fourth Quarter changed the whole narrative for Holiday and Middleton. Jrue knocked down two clutch jump shots with less than three minutes remaining in regulation to give the Bucks a 106-103 lead while Middleton hit the go-ahead FG in overtime.
Their defensive presence was also an enormous boost for Milwaukee. Middleton and Holiday combined for 14 steals in the final two games, including five from Middelton in Game Seven alone.
Even after some underwhelming performances earlier in the series, the efforts from Middleton and Holiday in the clutch were crucial to Milwaukee’s Game Seven success.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Stepping Up
Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered a statement on Saturday night with his unbelievable performance. His grueling free-throw routine and his sudden fascination in taking three-pointers early in the series (19.1% on 4.3 attempts per game) had many questioning if his lack of shooting ability would cost them a trip to the Conference Finals.
However, his scoring in the paint was unstoppable in Game Seven. Antetokounmpo finished with 40 points on 62.5% shooting, along with 13 rebounds and five assists. Giannis had an all-time Game Seven performance and certainly one of the best playoff performances in Milwaukee Bucks history.
Giannis is now just the fifth player in NBA Playoff history with 40+ points and 10+ rebounds in a Game Seven, joining legends Tim Duncan, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Charles Barkley.
After going down 0-2, Antetokounmpo averaged 34.2 points in the final five games of the series. While his lackluster shooting performances may be a concern, his inside-scoring ability more than makes up for it. Brooklyn had no answer for the Greek Freak this series.
PJ Tucker’s Defensive Impact on Durant
It’s not easy guarding the best scorer in the NBA, but PJ Tucker took on the challenge and defended Kevin Durant for almost 60 total minutes throughout this seven-game series. Durant inevitably scored 34.3 points per game on 51.4% shooting and 40.2% from three, but those averages went down by a significant margin when Tucker was guarding Durant.
Durant only shot 45.5% from the floor and 30.8% from three when defended by PJ, which is below Durant’s playoff shooting percentage for his last five postseasons. Not to say that Tucker shut down the former MVP, but his peskiness on the defense made Durant exhaust himself for every basket.
“He’s gonna get 30 or whatever,” Tucker stated on defending Durant. “I just got to try to make it as tough as possible.”
After seven fatiguing games of harassing Durant, Tucker and the Milwaukee Bucks advance to just their third Conference Finals since 2001. They look to continue riding this momentum on Wednesday for Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.
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