By. Japheth Bandi
MILWAUKEE – When two Eastern Conference contenders locked horns on Saturday night at Fiserv Forum, it was the Nets who emerged victorious following a hard-earned upset over the Milwaukee Bucks, 126-123.
Kyrie Irving took charge and carried Brooklyn on his back by racking a season-high 38 points (14-26 FG) with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Andre Drummond put up 17 points and 12 boards while Seth Curry contributed 19 points.
After a back-and-forth opening quarter, Brooklyn hung with the tough defending champion Bucks and trailed by only 6 points going into the intermission (59 to 53). Milwaukee’s lead could be credited in large part to their hot start from three point land (10-18).
The Nets came out firing in the third quarter and totalled 43 points in the frame, while the Bucks responded with only 34 points of their own.
Milwaukee closed the gap in the fourth behind two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis’ hot shooting. But Brooklyn rode an 11-4 run into the final minute which gave them the lead
Milwaukee’s resident energizer bunny -- Portis --- led the home crew with 30 points on 11 of 18 shooting, knocking down a career-high 8 three point baskets. Antetokounmpo finished with 29 points and snatched 14 rebounds. Middleton netted 25 points. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and 7 dimes, but had trouble taking care of the ball with 7 turnovers.
The Nets sealed their comeback victory with a stout defense stand. Brooklyn was up by two with 26.5 ticks left in the game, when Drummond denied a driving Giannis at the basket. On the ensuing inbounds play, James Johnson swatted a Portis jump shot. After veterans Lamarcus Aldridge and Irving knocked down clutch free throws, Brooklyn was able to hold off the reigning champs.
Saturday marked only the fifteenth game played for Irving, who can only play at away games (sans @ Toronto and @ New York) due to his vaccination status. When asked how he stays ready during such a sporadic season for him and the Nets, he credited his teammates:
“It’s the collection of guys we have in the locker room. They keep me in shape, they keep pushing me, they keep me motivated. It’s not an ideal season for us but we just gotta keep pushing through all those barriers…When we get our full team back, we’re gonna be good”
Brooklyn improves to 32-29 (8th in the Eastern Conference) and will look to use this signature win to fuel them while they await the much anticipated returns of Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons.
Milwaukee falls to 36-25 (5th in Eastern Conference) and will seek to steer the ship straight when they welcome the Charlotte Hornets to town on Monday.