Game 7 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center was an instant classic.
20 lead changes, 10 ties and an overtime period were required to decide a winner, with the Bucks outlasting the Nets 115-111.
It was sports theatre at its finest, with the anxiety-filled battle sure to go down as one of the great Game 7's in the league's history.
The Bucks became the first team in the series to win on the road, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons.
The BEST PLAYS from tonight's GAME 7 WIN!!! pic.twitter.com/SYGIDpWuZa- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 20, 2021
Giannis delivers on the big stage
Giannis Antetokounnpo came into Game 7 averaging 31 points and 13 rebounds in the second round against Brooklyn. Monster numbers in anyone's language.
Despite the outstanding numbers, all the talk circulating the two-time MVP has been of a negative nature, whether it be who he guards, his shot selection or his free-throw routine.
OH. MY. GIANNIS. pic.twitter.com/fcFLOtwyfG- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 20, 2021
Pushing all the noise to the side, Antetokounnmpo delivered in Game 7 on the road, pouring in 40 points to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists on 15-for-24 shooting from the field. Seeing 50 minutes of court time, an exhausted Antetokounmpo continually probed the Brooklyn defence, working through endless physicality to simply overpower the Nets defence.
So often questioned for his ability to lift the Bucks in the playoffs, Antetokounmpo delivered in the most pressure-packed environment he has played in during his eight-year career.
Perhaps now, we can look at the positives. This was an all-time performance in franchise history.
Just another night for KD
If there was one man on the floor that would have felt comfortable coming into Game 7 it was Durant. Coming into this one Durant was 3-1 in Game 7's, averaging 33.5 points in those outings.
While many on the floor seemed to be struggling with fatigue, Durant was in typical cruise control, dropping a Game 7 record 48 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists.
In a moment that will surely run through his mind on repeat, Durant had an opportunity to end the game in regulation.
With P.J. Tucker draped all over him and the clock winding down, Durant span into an impossible fadeaway jump shot from straightaway that hit nothing but net to seemingly give Brooklyn a 110-109 lead with 1.0 second to play.
The only problem is his toes were just grazing the 3-point arc, leaving the game tied and headed for an extra five minutes.
KD FORCES OVERTIME IN GAME 7! 🍿- NBA (@NBA) June 20, 2021
Don't miss OT in this WIN or GO HOME GAME 7 on TNT. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/ntJWam9snL
What a shot, what a moment and what a break for the Milwaukee Bucks.
A BROOKlyn disaster
Durant would only have the opportunity to get the game-tying shot up due to a near-season-ending blunder from the Bucks. Gaining possession with 8.1 seconds left in regulation, the Bucks had just 2.1 seconds left on the shot clock.
With an entire timeout to discuss scenarios, the ball was inbounded to Brook Lopez who inexplicably refused to shoot the ball, with a shot clock violation giving Durant a full six seconds to find a shot.
After the game head coach Mike Budenholzer took responsibility for the blunder but it was a head-scratcher, and almost cost Milwaukee their season.
Lopez would redeem himself in the overtime, coming up with a huge helpside block on a Durant drive with 59 seconds to play.
Giannis and KD create history
In scoring 38 or more points, Antetokounmpo and Durant became just the third pair to do so in a Game 7.
A truly incredible night from the superstar duo.
38 or more points, 2 players, same Game 7:- Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 20, 2021
2021: Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo
2008: LeBron James and Paul Pierce
1963: Sam Jones and Oscar Robertson
End of list.
Jrue shows up to avoid an early Holiday
It's was a rough series for Bucks guard Jrue Holiday.
Acquired in the offseason to boost Milwaukee's chances in the postseason and versatility in the half-court, Holiday suffered through a shooting slump that lasted the entire series against Brooklyn. Well....almost the entire series.
Shooting 2-for-11 in the first half, nothing typified Holiday's lack of confidence more than a wide-open corner three that crashed off the side of the backboard.
Picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, time was running out for Holiday to make an impact. With the game tied at 101 and under three minutes to play in regulation, his moment arrived, with the Milwaukee guard drilling a drought-breaking open three from the left wing to give the Bucks a 104-101 lead with 2:32 to play.
JRUE HOLIDAY!! pic.twitter.com/8rMZi9jVu3- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 20, 2021
Durant answered immediately with a lay-up before Holiday bullied his way to the right baseline to sink a mid-range jumper. Out of nowhere, Holiday had awoken.
JRUESKI AGAIN!! pic.twitter.com/K2KE7N0kvr- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 20, 2021
On the next possession, Holiday drove into the paint, drawing a foul to get to the free-throw line where he would make one of two to give Milwaukee a 107-105 lead. While the game ultimately went to overtime, that six-point burst in 62 seconds of play was desperately needed and Holiday produced.
It's better late than never.
Middleton delivers the game-winner
Suffering through a cold start to the series as Milwaukee fell behind 2-0, Khris Middleton needed to fight through a slump. By the end of the series, the smooth moving forward finished with averages of 24.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists while drilling 37 percent of his 3-point tries.
More than anything, it felt like Middleton stepped up with a big jump shot any time the Bucks needed it after Game 2, with Game 7 proving no different.
Going scoreless in overtime until an Antetokounmpo hook shot in the lane tied the game at 111 with 1:12 to play, Milwaukee's offence had sputtered, with the palpable tension of the moment taking hold of both teams.
Like he has all series long, Middleton took matters into his own hands, calmly dribbling into the paint with Bruce Brown on his side, before halting, spinning and then fading from the free-throw line to put the Bucks up 113-111 with 40 seconds to play.
Khris Middleton turns, fades and puts the Bucks on top!@Bucks 113@BrooklynNets 111- NBA (@NBA) June 20, 2021
40.1 left in OT... WIN or GO HOME GAME 7 on TNT pic.twitter.com/SkW6YJEnWq
While there was plenty left to play out, this was the bucket that ultimately gave Milwaukee the lead for good. Once again, when the Bucks needed a basket the most, it was Middleton who delivered.
Nash tweaks starting lineup
Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash made a change in the starting lineup for Game 7, inserting Bruce Brown for Jeff Green.
Despite Green's heroics in Game 5 that saw him tally 27 points on 7-for-8 shooting from three, Brown gave the Nets another look on offence, with the energy man used often as a screen in pick-and-roll situations with Durant.
If Lopez dropped back into the paint Durant was able to dribble into a rhythm jump shot. If Lopez moved up to the perimeter Durant would find Brown with a slip pass for a good look at a floater.
After halftime, the Bucks adjusted by having Antetokounmpo defending Brown, in an attempt to make life more difficult for the Brooklyn pair. Of course, the brilliance of Durant was able to overcome any adjustments for the most part, but it proved the lineup change from Nash asked questions of the Milwaukee coaching staff.
Brown finished with 14 points and six rebounds, with four of those boards coming on the offensive end in an excellent performance.
Hampered Harden battles
Clearly limited throughout the series, it was a poor shooting night for Harden in Game 7, with the former MVP finishing with 22 points on 5-for-17 shooting from the field and 2-for-12 from the 3-point line.
He did finish with nine assists on the night, while also benefiting from some foul calls to hit all 10 of his attempts from the charity stripe.
The Nets go home, while the Bucks await the winner in Game 7 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks.
The Bucks will have three nights off before Game 1. If the 76ers win, Game 1 will be on the road, if Atlanta win Game 1 will be at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
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