Milwaukee is just two wins away from its first NBA Finals appearance since 1974.
Khris Middleton, by himself, outscored Atlanta 20-17 in the fourth quarter, as the Bucks took a 2-1 series lead with a 113-102 win Sunday night. It was part of a 25-point second half for Middleton, who added 11 rebounds and seven assists. His step-back jumper with 1:01 left in the game was the exclamation point on a ridiculous final stretch for the two-time All-Star. He went 8-for-13 from the field in the quarter, including going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
“Greatness. What I saw tonight was unbelievable,” teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “It was freaking unbelievable. He carried the team at the end. He turned the ball over two times and after that he was locked in. He was like, ‘pass me the ball’ and were giving him the ball.
“I’ve talked in the past there’s moments that we know when to set screens for him, you know when he wants the ball and that was the moment. We were like, ‘Get the hell out of the way. Give him the ball and take us home, Khris.’ That’s what he did.
“I talked to him a little bit in the locker room. What I saw today was unbelievable and for me it was greatness. Simple as that.”
His effort was accompanied by another huge night from Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had 33 points and 11 rebounds, his 10th game of 30 or more points and 10 or more rebounds in the playoffs this year.
Bobby Portis gave the Bucks 15 points and a bunch of energy off the bench. Pat Connaughton had just five points and eight rebounds, but Milwaukee was 25 points better than Atlanta with him on the floor.
The game looked like it might get out of hand in the first quarter. Atlanta blitzed Milwaukee and grabbed a 25-10 lead at one point before the Bucks regrouped. It was just a five-point deficit at the end of the first quarter and the game was tied at the half.
Atlanta led 85-82 late in the third quarter when guard Trae Young stepped on the foot of an official and turned his ankle. He had scored 32 points at that point but he was forced to go to the locker room. He did return in the fourth quarter but scored just three more points to finish with 35. Young said he would be getting an MRI on the ankle but plans to be on the floor for the next game.
With the win, Milwaukee grabbed homecourt advantage back from the Hawks and will look to take further control of the series in Game 4 Tuesday night in Atlanta.