The Milwaukee Bucks generated better offense, the Brooklyn Nets sustained another injury to an All-Star and a series that once tilted in Brooklyn’s favor is now tied.
The Bucks defeated the Nets 107-96 in Game 4 on Sunday, evening their Eastern Conference semifinals series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Tuesday in Brooklyn (time to be determined, TNT).
Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo played his best game of the series with a game-high 34 points and 12 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday had his most effective game against the Nets with 14 points and nine assists.
Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return. He landed on Antetokounmpo’s foot and turned his ankle after a shot attempt near the basket.
The Nets are also without All-Star James Harden, who hasn’t played since aggravating his hamstring in 43 seconds into Game 1 against the Bucks. Nets coach Steve Nash said Harden is progressing but still has a “gap to make up” before returning.
Injuries continue to have an impact on the playoffs, and the Nets head into Game 5 with the possibility of no Harden or Irving.
After Brooklyn won the first two games of the series at home, it appeared the Bucks were headed for their second consecutive exit in the second round of the playoffs.
It look dire from the outside, especially after Brooklyn’s 125-85 victory in Game 2, but the Bucks stayed focused on winning at home. They snuck out a Game 3 victory and produced their best game of the series on Sunday, using their trademark defense and improved offense to slow the Nets.
Trailing 36-25 in the second quarter, the Bucks used a 12-0 run to take the lead and then begin to pull away. Milwaukee extended the lead in the third quarter and built a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The Bucks were more active offensively, Antetokounmpo attacked the rim and took fewer 3-pointers and his teammates made use of the 3-point shot.
Milwaukee didn’t make more than eight 3s in a game until Game 4 when it made 16. Khris Middleton (19 points, eight assists, two steals and two blocks) and P.J. Tucker (13 points) each made three and Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Bryn Forbes and Holiday each made two from deep.
The Bucks had more ball movement and player movement, leading to better shots. On their first play of the game, they ran a set play for Holiday. He missed the shot, but it was an open look. Even though Milwaukee had just four points four minutes into the game ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said, “I like the way they’re playing offensively in this game.”
The Bucks’ defense also held the Nets to 43% shooting from the field, including 30% on 3s. Those missed shots led to defensive rebounds, which led to solid transition offense for Milwaukee. The Bucks outscored the Nets 20-6 in fast break points.
Kevin Durant led the Nets with 28 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, but he was just 9-for-25 from the field, including 1-for-8 on 3-pointers. Irving had 11 points and no other Nets player reached double figures in points.
There was a stretch from the point Irving left in the game in the second quarter into the third where the Nets were 12-for-32 from the field and 0-for-10 on 3s with eight turnovers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo tie NBA playoffs series against Nets