Saturday's NBA playoffs: Khris Middleton lifts Bucks past Heat in OT in Game 1
Milwaukee — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks found themselves in danger of suffering one more devastating playoff loss to the Miami Heat.
Khris Middleton made sure it didn’t happen.
Middleton broke a tie with a jumper with 0.5 seconds left in overtime and had 27 points to help the Bucks beat the Heat 109-107 on Saturday in Game 1 of the first-round series.
“I have confidence in myself,” Middleton said. "You miss a lot of shots. You make a lot of shots. You just have to trust all the work you put in during the season and practice.”
The nip-and-tuck nature of this game — nobody led by more than four points in the fourth quarter and overtime — exemplified the competitive nature of this playoff rematch. Game 2 is Monday night in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee was the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s playoffs but lost 4-1 to Miami in the second round. Milwaukee is seeded third and Miami sixth in the Eastern Conference this time.
“The pressure was all on them,” said Miami's Goran Dragic, who scored 25 points and tied it with a corner 3-pointer with 20.6 seconds left. “They need to win at home. It was a close game. I feel like we had our chances, but unfortunately we didn’t take them.”
Milwaukee squandered opportunities to seal the victory before the final second of overtime.
Over the last 1:06 of regulation, Antetokounmpo was 2 of 5 from the line and had a 10-second violation that prevented him from getting another free-throw attempt.
Antetokounmpo wore a sleeve on his left arm late in the game after appearing to grab his elbow late in the fourth quarter. He still had 26 points, 18 rebounds and five assists but shot 10 of 27 overall and 6 of 13 on free-throw attempts.
“I just tried to stay aggressive the whole game,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s what I’m going to try to do the whole series, miss or make.”
Milwaukee's struggles from the line enabled Miami's Jimmy Butler to force overtime by making a buzzer-beating driving layup past Antetokounmpo.
Dragic tied it again in the final minute of OT. Milwaukee opted against calling a timeout afterward and instead went right to its offense.
“It shows the trust we have in one another," Middleton said. "On the fly, sometimes we don’t have to call a timeout. We can execute our sets and everyone get to their spots and get the best shot out of it.”
Middleton dribbled toward the free-throw line, then cut to his right and made a 19-footer while being closely guarded by Duncan Robinson.
“In that situation, you've got to make somebody miss,” Robinson said. “Could it have been better? For sure. I will be. I'll learn from it. This obviously stings a lot, but we've got to have a short memory - learn from it and move forward."
Robinson scored 24 points while shooting 7 of 13 from 3-point range. His seven 3-pointers tied a Heat playoff record.
Miami went 20 of 50 on 3-pointers while the Bucks were just 5 of 31. Milwaukee had never made below seven 3-pointers in a game during the regular season.
“We don’t need 3's to win," said Milwaukee's Jrue Holiday, who missed all five of his 3-point attempts but had 20 points and 11 rebounds. “We do a lot of everything.”
The Bucks compensated by outscoring the Heat 56-24 in the paint and outrebounding Miami 64-51. Butler and Bam Adebayo shot a combined 8 of 37 for the Heat, with Butler going 4 of 22 while Adebayo was 4 of 15.
Butler still had 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and eight assists. He was sometimes defended by Antetokounmpo.
“The ball is going to be in his hands a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. "He draws a lot of attention and you’ve got to be ready to go against him, but I love the challenge. Last year I didn’t have the chance to guard him as much.”
More NBA playoffs
Mavericks 113, Clippers 102: Luka Doncic scored 31 points and the Dallas beating Los Angeles in Game 1.
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 points and Dorian Finney-Smith had 18 for the Mavs. Doncic and Hardaway Jr. made five 3-pointers each, and Finney-Smith had four to help Dallas shoot 47% from long-range.
Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Cliuppers, and Paul George added 23 points. But they were a combined 3 of 14 on 3-pointers and the Clippers shot 31% after leading the NBA at 41% during the regular season.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Nets 104, Celtics 93: Brooklyn's Big Three went from way off to off and running.
Kevin Durant had 32 points and 12 rebounds, Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and the Nets recovered from their superstars' frigid start to beat the Boston Celtics 104-93 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the first-round series.
James Harden finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in just the ninth appearance of the season for the trio. The three combined to go 0 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half, then stormed out of the locker room with an 18-4 run to open the third and swing the lead the Nets' way for good.
Durant, Irving and Harden scored 28 of the Nets' 31 points in the period, with Joe Harris — who made Brooklyn's only 3-pointer of the first half — hitting another for the other points.
Harris had 10 points for the Nets, who announced a sellout crowd of 14,391 and host Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Jayson Tatum scored 22 points, but shot just 6 for 20 and couldn't come to his 50-point effort in the play-in tournament, when Boston beat Washington to earn the No. 7 seed.
Blazers 123, Nuggets 109:
Damian Lillard scored 34 points and led Portland's 3-point barrage that sparked the Trail Blazers' 123-109 win over the Denver Nuggets in the opener of their first-round playoff series Saturday night.
The Blazers hit 19 of 40 shots from beyond the arc, and Lillard, sporting silver sneakers that were a fitting choice for his sterling performance, had five of them.
Subs Carmelo Anthony and Anfernee Simons added four each as the Blazers outscored Denver by 24 points from beyond the arc.
CJ McCollum added 21 points and Anthony scored 18 in his first playoff game against the team that drafted him 18 years ago.
MVP favorite Nikola Jokic led Denver with 34 points, and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 25. Aaron Gordon added 16.
Game 2 in the series is Monday night.