Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo splits Miami’s defense and drives to the basket Friday night. (Photo: JASON SZENES, European Press Agency)
MIAMI – By the time the Milwaukee Bucks went into halftime trailing the Miami Heat by 20 points, there was a deserved sense of here-we-go-again.
The Bucks entered the contest with five straight losses in Miami, their last victory coming more than three years ago on Jan. 19, 2016. AmericanAirlines Arena was the site of one of the Bucks’ worst offensive showings this year, too, as they mustered just eight first-quarter points on the way to a 94-87 loss on Dec. 22.
Put that December game and the first half of Friday’s contest together and Milwaukee had made just 10 of 57 three-pointers in Miami. Their 20-point halftime deficit was their worst of the season.
Meanwhile, led by red-hot shooting by Justise Winslow and all-out hustle and intensity from up and down the Heat roster, Miami looked poised to blow out the Bucks – their would-be opponent in the opening round of the playoffs.
To make matters worse, the Bucks lost starting guard Malcolm Brogdon to right heel soreness after he had played just 6 1/2 minutes.
But after booting the first half, the Bucks rallied in a major way in the second.
Giannis Antetokounmpo out-muscled anyone who dared get between him and the basket. Khris Middleton went on a shooting splurge. Ersan Ilyasova provided a critical bump off the bench and the Bucks locked down on defense as they surged to a 113-98 victory to close out their three-game road trip and exorcize their South Beach demons.
After trailing by as many as 23 points, the Bucks led by as many as 19 late in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Heat, 71-36, after intermission. According to the Associated Press, Friday marked the first time in NBA history a team trailed by 20 or more points at halftime and went on to win by at least 15 points.
It was Middleton, who finished with 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds, who first gave the Bucks life. Middleton made a series of tough shots, popping a pair of three-pointers and a long two to help the Bucks cut their 20-point halftime deficit down to 11.
Antetokounmpo chipped in seven points in the quarter, but with both he and Middleton carrying a heavy load and Middleton getting into foul trouble, coach Mike Budenholzer went to the bench toward the end of the period and got a huge lift from Ilyasova.
Ilyasova poured in 10 of his 15 points in the final 3 minutes, 7 seconds of the third quarter, drawing a foul and making both free throws, adding a three-pointer, tapping back an offensive rebound and finally connecting on a corner three-pointer with 0.9 seconds on the clock to bring the Bucks within one heading into the fourth.
Antetokounmpo took over from there, putting an exclamation mark on the win. He drove with ferocity to the rim for layups, dunks and fouls while scoring 11 of his 33 points in the …read more
Source:: Daily times