Halfway there: Bucks reach East finals after outlasting Nets

Jun 19, 2021, 11:53 AM | Updated: Jun 20, 2021, 12:25 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Once they could finally get off the court, the Milwaukee Bucks feasted their eyes on a welcome sight in the locker room.

The No. 8 on their board signified the number of victories remaining to win a championship, following a sweep of Miami followed by a survival against Brooklyn.

“I’m really happy for what we got done. I’m really happy we were able to write 8 on the board. But the job is not done,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

“We’ve got to keep believing in ourselves. We’ve got to keep playing good basketball and take it game by game. The job is not done. We’re halfway through.”

They got there by edging the Nets 115-111 on Saturday night in the first Game 7 to go overtime since 2006. Antetokounmpo had 40 points and 13 rebounds, and Khris Middleton made the tiebreaking shot with 40 seconds left in OT.

The third-seeded Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in three years. They will play either top-seeded Philadelphia or No. 5 Atlanta in a series that starts Wednesday.

“We’re definitely proud of where we are. We put a lot of work in to get to this point,” center Brook Lopez said. “But, you know, our goal this season at the beginning of the season wasn’t just to make it to the Eastern Conference finals. Obviously we want to win a championship.”

The Bucks blew a 2-0 lead last time they got to the conference finals, losing four straight to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in 2019.

They overcame that deficit this time, turning the series around after dropping Game 2 by 39 points and pulling out a deciding game that turned into a thriller.

“It’s just been a heck of a series,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You put so much emotion and so much energy and time in it. For this group to be rewarded with a huge win in a Game 7 in overtime, it’s just a great group. You feel great for the group, great for the players.”

Antetokounmpo tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise playoff record with five straight games of 30 points and 10 rebounds. He capped it off by becoming the first player in NBA history with at least 40 points, 10 boards and five assists in a Game 7 victory.

The Bucks had the best record in the league last season but couldn’t get out of the second round. They acquired Jrue Holiday before this season to team with Antetokounmpo and Middleton, their two All-Stars, and built a team that was better prepared for the postseason.

Milwaukee is unbeaten at home in the postseason and would play there to start the next round if Atlanta wins Sunday. But even if they are on the road, the Bucks are confident in their chances.

They overcame Kevin Durant’s 48 points in Game 7 and are ready for whoever comes next.

“To be able to finally get over the hump against him is pretty nice. I’m excited,” forward P.J. Tucker said. “We’re just getting started, though. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”


More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, left, hits a 3-pointer with less than a second left in the NBA b...
Associated Press

Murray’s 3 gives Nuggets 121-120 win over Lillard, Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Jamal Murray’s 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining lifted the Denver Nuggets to a thrilling 121-120 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night. Damian Lillard had 40 points for the Trail Blazers, including a 3-pointer that gave them a one-point lead with 8.8 seconds remaining. Murray then answered with his […]
22 hours ago
Utah forward Ben Carlson (1) goes to the basket as Jacksonville State guard Skyelar Potter (5) defe...
Associated Press

Utah hits 16 3-pointers, routs Jacksonville State 99-58

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lazar Stefanovic made six of Utah’s 16 3-pointers, and the Utes scored the first 19 points of the game and cruised to a 99-58 rout of Jacksonville State on Thursday night for its fourth straight win. Stefanovic finished with 20 points. Branden Carlson added 19 points and Gabe Madsen had […]
22 hours ago
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield (17) celebrates a touchdown by wide receiver Van Jeffer...
Associated Press

Baker cooks: Newcomer Mayfield rallies Rams past Vegas 17-16

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Baker Mayfield was waived by Carolina on Monday and claimed by the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday. After a cross-country flight, he got one short practice with his new team on Wednesday. And on Thursday night, Mayfield led the Rams to two late fourth-quarter touchdowns and a stunning 17-16 victory over […]
22 hours ago
San Antonio Spurs' Tre Jones (33) goes to the basket against Houston Rockets' Usman Garuba (16) and...
Associated Press

Johnson’s hot start helps Spurs beat Rockets, end skid at 11

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Keldon Johnson scored 32 points and the San Antonio Spurs snapped an 11-game losing streak by beating the Houston Rockets 118-109 on Thursday night. Johnson sparked the turnaround by making his first nine shots and his first three 3-pointers in helping San Antonio win for the first time since Nov. 11, […]
22 hours ago
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) goes up for a shot against Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul G...
Associated Press

Adebayo, Butler lift Heat past Kawhi-less Clippers 115-110

MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo knows the Miami Heat have some work to do to climb up the standings. Thursday was, he hopes, a good start. Adebayo had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Jimmy Butler added 26 points and the Heat held off the Los Angeles Clippers 115-110. “If we worry about ourselves, I feel […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Mikonowicz, Toledo women upend No. 14 Michigan 71-68

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Sammi Mikonowicz made a layup with 13.6 seconds left and then added two free throws at 3.1 seconds as Toledo beat No. 14 Michigan 71-68 on Thursday night for its first win over a ranked team in 12 years and first on the road since March of 1996. The Rockets […]
22 hours ago
Halfway there: Bucks reach East finals after outlasting Nets