Bucks survive Nets in tense Game 3 to cut series deficit to 2-1

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton saved the Milwaukee Bucks' season at the start and at the end of Game 3.

Antetokounmpo barreled into the paint for dunks, and Middleton had his 3-ball going as the pair combined for Milwaukee’s first 30 points and a 21-point lead over the Brooklyn Nets.

But that that great start fizzled. It was a three-point game at halftime, and Brooklyn took its first lead near the end of the third quarter.

With their season on the line, the Bucks avoided a disastrous 3-0 hole, beating the Nets 86-83 in Game 3 on Thursday.

Trailing 83-80, Middleton and Jrue Holiday, who struggled offensively, made back-to-back shots and the Bucks took an 84-83 lead with 11.4 seconds left.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points for the Bucks. (Photo: Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports)

The Nets called timeout but didn’t execute a solid play, and Bruce Brown’s runner didn’t go in. Middletown made two free throws, giving the Bucks an 86-83 lead. Kevin Durant’s 3-point attempt hit the back of the rim as time expired.

Game 4 is Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC), and the Bucks have a chance to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2.

Antetokounmpo (33 points and 14 rebounds) and Middleton (35 points and 15 rebounds) combined for 68 of Milwaukee’s 86 points. No other Bucks player scored in double figures.

Two of the league’s best offenses struggled, with neither team shooting better than 40% from the field and 25% on 3-pointers.

Durant scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half. Durant also had 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and one block. Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points, and Brown, who had a playoff career-high 16 points, kept the Nets in the game in the second quarter.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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