Basketball fans caught a potential preview of the Eastern Conference Finals when the Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon. The Bucks edged out the Nets 117-114 in a taut thriller in which Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo dropped a season-high 49 points in the victory, and Kevin Durant added 42 points in the loss for the Nets.
The Bucks (40-24) now trail the banged-up Nets (43-22) by 2.5 games with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers (42-21) are ensconced in a tight race to win the Atlantic Division and the overall #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Nets square off against the Bucks again on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee.
“This is a great rehearsal for a potential playoff matchup,” admitted Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash.
The Bucks are +750 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship, according to a recent update by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
Freak Funk 49
The Greek Freak fell three points short of his career-high, but 49 points marked a season-high with the Bucks. He averages 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game this season. He’s ranked #5 in scoring, #7 in rebounding, and #2 in PER with a 29.20 rating.
Antetokounmpo bounced back from a sprained ankle, which he suffered in the opening minute of a Thursday night game against the Houston Rockets. Without Antetokounmpo, the rudderless Bucks lost 143-136 against the worst team in the league.
Antetokounmpo sat out Friday’s win against the Chicago Bulls, but was itching to play against Durant and the Nets on Sunday.
“They’ve put him through quite a bit of testing and work,” said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer. “Giannis is very familiar with his body and these type of injuries. At some point you pass the test, you feel good, you go.”
The Nets struggled to contain Antetokounmpo, who shot 21-for-36 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. He added eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and a steal in the win.
The Bucks erased a double-digit deficit in the first half and led by three heading into halftime.
Antetokounmpo came out of the locker room all fired up to start the third quarter. He scored 16 consecutive points and finished with 18 in the third quarter.
KD B2B 42
Durant scored 42 points in consecutive games for the Nets and improved his scoring average to 27.6 ppg this season. On Thursday night, Durant steamrolled the Indiana Pacers with 42 points in a victory. He sat out Friday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers due to load management because it was the back end of back-to-back games.
Against the Bucks, a refreshed Durant led the Nets in scoring with 42 points and seven 3-pointers. He also added 10 rebounds.
Antetokounmpo and Durant put on a heck of a show combining for 91 points.
“KD is one of the greatest players off all time,” said Antetokounmpo. “You can’t go back and forth with KD. A guy like that is going to score 70.”
Durant scored 13 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter. He missed a game-tying 3-pointer as time expired. With the Nets trailing by three points, Durant missed a chance to send the game into overtime.
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