MILWAUKEE (AP) – Jrue Holiday laid a layup with 11.4 seconds to go and the Milwaukee Bucks edged the Brooklyn Nets 86-83 Thursday night to go 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Kevin Durant’s 3-point attempt to equalize bounced off the rim when the horn sounded. He scored the Nets last nine points and finished with 30.
Game four of the series is Sunday at Milwaukee.
Khris Middleton scored 35 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 33 for the Bucks.
“We’ve been doing this for eight years and we know what kind of game this is and we both came out ready,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were able to compete and we were able to engage our teammates, take our places and help the team to a victory. Hopefully we can do it in Game 4. “
The Bucks stayed in this series relying on their defense as a game in which the NBA’s two highest-scoring teams from the regular season were turned into a 1990s-style defensive fight.
Brooklyn remained at its lowest point total of the season. Milwaukee equaled its lowest point total of the season following its 125-86 loss in Game 2.
“It’s interesting that we lose a game because of our offense,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “It was a difficult game. We couldn’t find a rhythm. The defense was solid. “
The Bucks raced to a 21-point lead, but had to come back, scoring the final six points after Durant’s 3-pointer made it 83-80 with 1:23 to play.
Holiday scored just nine points and shot 4 of 14, but made the biggest basket of the night.
Brooklyn led 83-82 when Bruce Brown missed a jump shot with just over 20 seconds left. Antetokounmpo got the rebound, the Bucks worked the ball on the court and Holiday drove to the basket to put Milwaukee ahead 84-83.
“He’s that kind of person,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think the work he’s doing defensively, he’s putting a lot of work there. Just to grab the ball and get to the basket and end up with a scrambled defense, we needed it. We needed that play from him, and he did it. “
After Brown missed his own layup attempt with just over 6 seconds left, Middleton got the rebound. Middleton made a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to crown the score.
Kyrie Irving scored 22 and Brown 16 for the Nets.
The Bucks began with the intention of turning Game 3 into a complete reversal of Game 2, losing 125-86 when the Nets recorded their most uneven playoff victory in franchise history.
Milwaukee took a 30-9 lead in the first 10 1/2 minutes, but was then outscored 22-3 during a stretch that lasted nearly 9 1/2 minutes as the Nets worked their way back into the game.
Neither team led by more than five points in a second half that had high emotions on both sides.
After PJ Tucker was called for a foul on Durant in the third quarter, Tucker began to complain about the decision. That prompted Tucker and Durant to taunt each other as they went toe-to-toe, with officials calling on the two players for a double technique.
Nets: Brooklyn was again without nine-time All-Star James Harden (right hamstring strain) and Jeff Green (plantar fascia strain). Harden was injured in the first minute of Game 1. Green has not played since Game 2 of the Nets’ first-round series with the Boston Celtics.
Bucks: Milwaukee kept the same starting five they used in the first two games of the series. That lineup included Tucker, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the start of this series. Donte DiVincenzo, a regular starter, tore a ligament in his left ankle in Game 3 of Milwaukee’s first-round series with Miami and will miss the rest of the season. … The Bucks were playing at home with fans filling every seat for the first time this season. The crowd included Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, as well as former Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman. Fiserv Forum was at 50% capacity for the Bucks-Heat series.