by Japheth Bandi
CHICAGO - It was a Game 7 to remember, a back and forth affair that saw multiple lead changes and ties and needed an overtime period to settle.
In the end, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who emerged victorious by pulling off a gritty 113-111 decision on Sunday at Barclays Center.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge with 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Khris Middleton finished 23 while Brook Lopez added 19 and eight boards. Jrue Holiday settled with only 13 points but he dished eight dimes and made clutch baskets in regulation.
"At the end of the day I try not to get high, not to get too low. But I almost got emotional a little bit out there because the team really tried their best. We kept our composure. We were down 2-0. A lot of people didn't believe we could make it," Antetokounmpo said after Milwaukee won four of the last five games in the best-of-7 set.
And it wasn't easy.
Milwaukee made only 43 of 98 field goals (43.9 percent) but their 3-point shooting went to a high 41.7 percent clip (15-of-38) to help them weather a 48-point onslaught by Nets superstar Kevin Durant.
James Harden, who revealed post-game that he has a grade 2 hamstring sprain, hobbled with 22 points on 5-of-17 shooting that included a horrendous 2-for-12 fare from 3-point range, Joe Harris, one of the league's best 3-point gunners struggled mightily with 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
The Nets went 39 of 84 from the field overall (46.4 percent) but their long distance shooting betrayed them, swishing just 12 of 39 tried, a below average 30.8 percent rate.
"We got good looks there in overtime. We just didn't knock them down. Respect to the Milwaukee Bucks in how they prepare, how they challenged us all series. We got nothing but respect for that ballclub," Durant said.
The No.3-ranked Bucks await the winner of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between the No.2 seeded Philadelphia 76ers and the No.5-seeded Atlanta Hawks
Game 7 of that series plays out tomorrow at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia.
Bucks KO Nets to advance to East Finals