(WFRV) – With Giannis Antetokounmpo exiting the game in the second quarter, it took every minute and every shot for the Milwaukee Bucks to overcome the Miami Heat 118-115 to avoid the sweep and force a Game 5 on Sunday afternoon at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Khris Middleton saved the Bucks season with a knock down three-pointer over two defenders with six seconds left in overtime to extend the lead 115-112.
“I saw the double team and knew I didn’t have enough time to really make a play, so it was just rise up and try to shoot it. And thankfully it went down,” said Middleton.
48 minutes, 36 points and eight rebounds for Middleton in a must-win game capped off by an incredible shot.
“Khris was phenomenal. He’s such a great player and makes big shots and makes big decisions,” said Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.
This game was a roller coaster in terms of ups and downs for Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo came out in a win or go home mindset and scored 14 points in the first quarter. The rest of the Bucks were 4-of-16 and 0-of-8 from beyond the arc.
After getting off to that impressive and dominant start, Giannis drove to the basket at 10:18 in the second quarter and tweaked his right ankle. The same ankle that he landed wrong on in Game 3, which he denied bothered him at all.
This time Antetokounmpo was in clear unruly pain and had to be initially helped off the court. But a foul was called on the play and the NBA rules state that he had to shoot the free throws before going back to the locker room if he wanted a chance to come back into the game at some point.
Antetokounmpo made 1-of-2 from the foul line and limped off to the locker room.
After being evaluated by the medical staff, Giannis was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
“There was no consideration of him coming back today,” said Budenholzer. “I hope it’s not lost what he did in those first twelve minutes. On an ankle that isn’t fully 100%, he was phenomenal to start the game and gave us a huge boost.”
As if the road couldn’t get tougher for Milwaukee. Down 0-3 in the series and losing your best player after he scored 19 points in 11 minutes of play.
Without their leader, Milwaukee began to play in a whole different tone. A “next up” mentality.
“We knew they were going to be physical and we matched it tonight. We left it all out there,” said Eric Bledsoe.
Middleton took the weight on his shoulders offensively coming out of halftime and exploded for 21 points in the third quarter. Breaking a Bucks’ playoff record for points in a quarter that was set by Tim Thomas, 19, in 2003.
“It was necessary to take my shots,” said Middleton.
Miami didn’t make it easy and had themselves a 40-point third quarter and led 88-85 heading into the final 12 minutes.
The Bucks then went on a 12-0 run to take the lead 104-100 led by a pair of Brook Lopez threes. After trading buckets down the stretch, Donte Divincenzo hit a free throw to tie the game 107-107. A failed three-point attempt followed by the Heat and this game went to overtime.
All five Heat starters scored in double-digits. Led by a 26 point and 12 rebound outing from Bam Adebayo. Duncan Robinson had 20 points and Jae Crowder scored 18, including six threes.
Milwaukee as a team shot 48 percent from the field and dominated the paint, 54-38. Lopez and Bledsoe both had 14 points.
It took Middleton, Lopez, and Bledsoe playing 40 plus minutes for the chance to extend the series.
Still in a win or go home scenario, the Bucks still need three-straight. Up next, Game 5 is set for Tuesday at 5:30 C.T.