The Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Brooklyn Nets Sunday for Game 4 of their best-of-7 series. Although the Bucks held Brooklyn to just 83 points in Game 3, they only won by 3. This begged the question: could they duplicate the defensive effort that earned their previous victory in Game 4? While Brooklyn scored a little more, the Bucks also took their offensive play to another level.
Nets in control early
Brooklyn jumped out to a quick 7-point lead over the Bucks, causing a timeout to slow the momentum. The Bucks responded with a 7-0 run to tie things up at 9 apiece, including a three-pointer from Giannis Antetokounmpo. As a team they shot 5-of-11 from distance, a welcome sight considering their struggles throughout the series. A dogfight ensued through the remainder of a physical first quarter, and Brooklyn took a 26-23 lead into the second.
Eight points in the first minute and a half of the quarter quickly saw Brooklyn with an 11-point advantage. However, the Bucks stormed back with three straight triples – one of them a 4-point play – from Kris Middleton and PJ Tucker. Antetokounmpo followed with a transition throwdown to put the Bucks ahead.
The Bucks completed a 19-2 run before a bucket in the paint by Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving. Unfortunately for his team, Irving landed on Antetokounmpo’s foot and turn his right ankle. Though he walked to the locker room on his own merit, Irving would later be ruled out for the rest of the game. The up-and-down half closed with the Bucks leading 53-48.
Bucks take the wheel
A 15-4 run in the first six minutes of the third gave the Bucks a comfortable cushion. With Irving out and Kevin Durant struggling to get going, Brooklyn – who was 0-of-10 from three since Irving’s departure – fell behind by 17 late in the quarter. The Bucks were physical all game with Durant, who displayed frustration from the lack of calls that went his way. Despite his shooting woes, Durant scored 16 of his team’s 21 points in the period.
Brooklyn had time to make one final push. They cut their deficit to 12 in the fourth, but the Bucks went back up 16 on a Middleton triple with 7:53 left to play. After going up by as much as 19, however, Brooklyn showed life and cut it back down. Consequently, just as he was ready to sub his stars out, Coach Steve Nash called his subs back to the bench with 5:40 remaining.
Just over a minute later, Nash decided it was time to pull the plug on Brooklyn’s fight and substituted 5 bench players. Antetokounmpo put an exclamation on the game with a vicious rejection on one end followed by a one-handed alley-oop stuff on the other.
In a critical, series-shifting Game 4, the Bucks took a 107-96 victory over Brooklyn to tie the series 2-2.
Stepping up when it matters
The Bucks put forth a balanced effort, led by Antetokounmpo with 34 points and 12 rebounds. Middleton scored 19 points to go with 8 assists, while Jrue Holiday put up 14 points and 9 dimes. Tucker came up big with 13 points after averaging just 3 for the series, and Bryn Forbes added 10.
“We’re very happy, but we’ve got to keep getting better, keep playing together and hopefully we can go into Brooklyn and take one,” Antetokounmpo said.
After Game 4 the series became a best-of-3, but with 2018 MVP James Harden out with hamstring tightness and Irving now being questionable for the next game, Brooklyn finds themselves in a tough spot. Without higher scoring outputs from role players such as Blake Griffin and Joe Harris, they become a major underdog.
“We’ll have to see how it goes,” Nash said about Irving’s Game 5 status. “We’ll cross our fingers.”
Durant carried the load for Brooklyn in Game 4 with 28 points and 13 boards. Despite his early exit, Irving was the only other player to score in double figures with 11.
The series shifts back to Brooklyn for Game 5 Tuesday at 8:30 pm EST.