Giannis Drops 44 Points as Bucks Hold off Kevin Durant, Nets in OT Thriller

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 1, 2022

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots from between Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), Wesley Matthews (23) and Brook Lopez (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

An overtime showdown between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks? Sound familiar?

Much like Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, Thursday's showdown went to overtime. And just like that game, it was the Bucks who earned the win, 120-119. 

A close game seemed to change dramatically late in the fourth, when Khris Middleton was given a flagrant-2 and ejected from the game for this foul on Bruce Brown:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Khris Middleton was ejected after this foul. <a href="https://t.co/WblBFZEdwR">pic.twitter.com/WblBFZEdwR</a>

Suffice to say, the decision to eject Middleton split opinon:

Jay King @ByJayKing

Man got ejected for hustling back into a play and trying to block a shot. That’s a joke.

Chris Herring @Herring_NBA

Damn. Flagrant Dos?!

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Flagrant 2 on Middleton is not what I expected there.

Nate Duncan @NateDuncanNBA

Surprised it was a flagrant two, maybe it's the follow through that gets it to that point. I don't mind it though, a very dangerous play. <a href="https://t.co/gBNBPP0EbV">https://t.co/gBNBPP0EbV</a>

The Nets promptly went on a 9-3 run, turning a three-point lead into a nine-point advantage. But Milwaukee made a late push, going on an 11-2 run tying the game with 18 seconds remaining on a clutch Giannis Antetokounmpo three. Kevin Durant's game-winning attempt clanged off the rim, sending the game to overtime.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

GIANNIS 3 TO TIE THE GAME.<br><br>WHAT A SHOT. <a href="https://t.co/G2wU0n230N">pic.twitter.com/G2wU0n230N</a>

Durant had the chance to win at the buzzer in overtime too, but his turnaround jumper just rimmed out. A cruel finish to a fantastic game. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KD had a chance to win 🫢 <a href="https://t.co/3RqUA3GmW4">pic.twitter.com/3RqUA3GmW4</a>

The win moved the Bucks (48-28) to just a half-game behind the Miami Heat in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. That puts them on a possible collision course with these Nets, should Brooklyn win its first play-in game. 

In just Kyrie Irving's third home game this year, the Nets (40-37) showed why they'll be so scary in this year's postseason should they survive the play-in tournament. 

Imagine that first-round series—the defending champs against a Nets team currently +550 to win the title, which trails only the Phoenix Suns (+300), per FanDuel. That would be a wild way for both teams to start the postseason. 

And if Thursday was any indication, it would be one hell of a series. 

Key Stats

Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL: 44 points, 14 rebounds, six assists

Khris Middleton, MIL: 16 points, nine rebounds

Jrue Holiday, MIL: 19 points, eight rebounds, six steals

Kyrie Irving, BKN: 25 points, five assists

Kevin Durant, BKN: 26 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, six turnovers

Bruce Brown, BKN: 23 points

Giannis Sure Does Look Like An MVP

Coming into Thursday, Antetokounmpo was averaging 32.3 points per game in March. He just put 40 points and 14 rebounds on the Philadelphia 76ers in a win, outplaying fellow MVP candidate Joel Embiid. He now has three 40-point games this month alone. 

In yet another game against an elite player, it was Giannis who was the best player on the floor. He was downright unstoppable at times.


Giannis euros for the SLAM 😤 <a href="https://t.co/dNLrVRQMwR">pic.twitter.com/dNLrVRQMwR</a>


Giannis throws it down + the foul 💪🏽 <a href="https://t.co/GJm2O88rat">pic.twitter.com/GJm2O88rat</a>


Jrue lobs it to Giannis to take the lead ↗️ <a href="https://t.co/ZWHaiJ0QA9">pic.twitter.com/ZWHaiJ0QA9</a>

Louis Riddick @LRiddickESPN

So…you can’t actually “stop” Giannis. He just misses sometimes. Is that it?

He is a two-time MVP, after all. And maybe a three-time MVP soon enough. His late-season push can't be ignored. 

This Wasn't Vintage KD. Until It Was.

When Durant is on—and he's almost always on—he's the best shot-maker on the planet. But for a good chunk of this game, he wasn't on against the Bucks. 

But he found it late. He sunk a three and finished an alley-oop in Brooklyn's run after Middleton's ejection. He had 13 points between the final four minutes and 10 seconds of the game and overtime.


KD IS TAKING OVER ‼️<br><br>HUGE sequence for Brooklyn! <a href="https://t.co/XXVAfXWMW7">pic.twitter.com/XXVAfXWMW7</a>

So hey, maybe it wasn't vintage Durant for stretches. Had he made one of his two game-winning attempts, we might be talking about this one a bit differently. But he was still huge for the Nets down the stretch.

What's Next?

The Bucks head back home for the second half of a back-to-back when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The Nets travel to Atlanta on Saturday to face the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV.