Exhaustion draped Giannis Antetokounmpo at the start of the match, at the end of the match and at all points in between.
With his two main teammates struggling offensively, Antetokounmpo helped the Milwaukee Bucks claim a 115-111 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday and in the Eastern Conference final.
Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and received much needed offensive assist in the fourth quarter and overtime. Trailing 101-96 with four minutes left, the Bucks outscored the Nets 19-10 in the stretch and in overtime.
The Bucks failed to score for the first 3:48 of overtime. But Brooklyn had only made one basket. The Antetokounmpo short jumper tied the game at 111-111, and Khris Middleton gave the Bucks a 113-111 lead with 40.7 left in overtime.
Kevin Durant, who had another offensive masterpiece in regulation, missed a 3-point with 0.3 seconds left in overtime that would have given Brooklyn a 114-113 lead. He was 0-for-6 in overtime after scoring a Game 7 record with 48 points in the first four quarters.
Back-to-back baskets from Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday saw Milwaukee lead 104-103. The clutch free throws gave Milwaukee a 109-107 lead and Durant along 2 points (his foot was on 3 points with a second left in regulation forced overtime.
Milwaukee has qualified for the conference final for the first time since 2019, but only the second time in the past 21 seasons. The Bucks will face the winner of Game 7 Atlanta-Philadelphia on Sunday in the Eastern Finals starting Wednesday.
Milwaukee had to overcome another wonderful offensive performance from Durant, who also had nine rebounds and six assists, and for the second time in the series, he played the entire game.
Holiday and Middleton struggled offensively for much of the game. They were a combined 14 for 49 on the field, including 4 for 16 on 3 points. But they found just enough offense when Milwaukee needed it most in the fourth quarter.
Middleton had 11 points in the fourth and Holiday had nine. Both made big 3 points and some big free throws with the game in the balance. Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday were the only Bucks to score in the fourth quarter. Brook Lopez scored 19 points and three of his four blocked shots came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Nets were hampered by injuries and still almost won. Kyrie Irving missed the last three games of the series with a sprained ankle, and James Harden missed almost 43 seconds of the first three games of the series with a pain in his thigh.
Harden had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Game 7. Every Nets starter scored in double digits and played at least 40 minutes. Harden also played the 53 minutes and Bruce Brown played 52. The small Nets bench did not score a point.
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