LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 71 points as the Milwaukee Bucks rallied to beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-102 in game three of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
Middleton scored 20 of his 38 points in the fourth and Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds as the Bucks grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in front of a crowd of 16,600 at State Farm Arena in Georgia. Middleton also had 11 rebounds.
Game four is Tuesday in Atlanta where the Hawks are now 3-3 at home in the playoffs.
The Bucks were down by 15 points in the first quarter and didn’t take their first lead until the third, but they finished with a 25-7 scoring surge as Middleton led the charge.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 35 points and Italy’s Danilo Gallinari came off the bench to score 18 points in the loss.
The Hawks offense started to wilt after Young appeared to reinjure his right ankle and headed to the dressing room late in the third. He returned with about three minutes gone in the final quarter.
Young is averaging 9.9 assists in the postseason but had just four on Sunday as he didn’t get as much help from his supporting cast.
Milwaukee improved to 3-0 in game threes during the postseason. They cruised to a 113-84 win over the Miami Heat en route to a four-game sweep in the first round, and held on for an 86-83 win over the Brooklyn Nets in game three of the second round to jump-start a series comeback.
The Bucks won despite Antetokounmpo making just six of 12 from the free throw line. The Atlanta crowd tried to distract Antetokounmpo throughout the game, counting out loud how many seconds it takes him to shoot a free throw. He shot an impressive 13-of-21 from the floor.
The Hawks started quickly jumping out to a 25-14 point lead with just under four minutes left in the first quarter as Young had 10 points.
Atlanta carried the play for almost the entire first half, leading by 15 points in the first. But the Bucks tied it 56-56 on their final possession of the second quarter when Pat Connaughton nailed a 23=foot three-pointer from the corner after taking a pass from Jrue Holiday.
The Bucks finally grabbed the lead late in the third when Bobby Portis made a basket to make it 82-80.
Antetokounmpo sparked the comeback by scoring 11 points in the second quarter which set the stage for Middleton to shine down the stretch and seal the victory.
The Portland Trail Blazers have turned to Los Angeles Clippers coaching staff to find their new head coach, agreeing a deal with Chauncey Billups.
Billups is the 15th head coach in Trail Blazers franchise history, the team announced in a news release on Sunday night.
“Chauncey is a proven leader with an elite basketball IQ that has won everywhere he has been,” said president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.
“He is prepared for the challenge of developing the Championship habits and strategic approach we need to achieve the expectations and goals for our franchise.”