LOS ANGELES: The Milwaukee Bucks produced an exhibition of three-point shooting to crush the Miami Heat as the Denver Nuggets bounced back to level their NBA first round playoff series with victory over Portland on Monday. Bryn Forbes erupted for five threes in the first half and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points to give the Bucks a resounding 132-98 win over last year’s NBA Finals runners-up. Overall, the Bucks made 22 of 53 three-point attempts, with Antetokounmpo kicking off the rout with a 28-foot pullup from outside the arc for the first points of the game.
After an overtime thriller in game one on Saturday, the Bucks were in no mood to leave anything to chance in game two, erupting for 46 points in the first quarter alone. The Bucks made 15 of 29 three-point attempts in the first half, surging into leads of more than 30 points at various stages of a one-sided encounter. They maintained a healthy cushion throughout, with the Heat unable to get within 20 points of the Bucks after briefly clawing their way back to a 19-point deficit early in the second quarter. Antetokounmpo added 13 rebounds and six assists, while Forbes finished with 22 points off the bench.
“After game one I didn’t look at the stat sheet,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day a win is a win. All I care about is winning the game, putting my teammates in a position to win a game. It feels good when guys are knocking down shots. We were seeing the ball go in, we were making stops, it felt good. We’ve got to stay locked in for game three.”
Khris Middleton added 17 points including three three-pointers as six Bucks players made double-digit totals. Dewayne Dedmon led the Miami scorers with 19 points from the bench, while Goran Dragic added 18. Bam Adebayo was restricted to 16 points, while Jimmy Butler was held to just 10. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team would need to make a big improvement for game three in Miami on Thursday.
“They’re a great first quarter team when they get it going and clicking,” Spoelstra said of the Bucks. “This game just got out of hand so quickly, but you do have to respect what they did tonight. They were really explosive in those first and third quarters.”
Nuggets bounce back
In Denver, Nuggets ace Nikola Jokic served up a 38-point display as the third seeds overpowered the Portland Trail Blazers by 128-109. Jokic made 15 of 20 from the field with eight rebounds and five assists as Denver battled back to level the series at 1-1 after being jolted by the Blazers in Saturday’s opener. Portland talisman Damian Lillard led the scoring with 42 points but it was not enough against a rugged Denver defense. Six Denver players cracked double figures, with Jokic receiving scoring support from Michael Porter with 18 points and Paul Millsap with 15.
Aaron Gordon finished with 13 points while Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris chipped in with 12 apiece. “The difference tonight was we created open shots,” Serbian star Jokic said afterwards. “In game one we didn’t create open shots. It was a tough night for us. But today our bench was good, everybody contributed. It was a real team effort.”
Jokic said Denver will need to produce a stronger defensive effort as the series moves to Portland for game three on Thursday. “They’re a talented team, a dangerous team, but we can fight at least,” said Jokic, who was encouraged by Denver’s aggressive approach against Portland. “It seems like we like it,” Jokic said. “When they started picking up the aggressiveness, we did it too. We kind of meet their aggressiveness. Maybe we were a little bit higher, but we were still controlling it.” – AFP