You couldn’t ask for a better Game 7. In a heavyweight fight that saw both teams trade blows to the bitter end, the Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals after a thrilling 115-111 victory over the Nets in extra time.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points in 50 minutes in the victory, leading Milwaukee as much of their supporting cast struggled to shoot for long stretches of the game.
Kevin Durant had another all-time performance, scoring 48 points, the most in Game 7, and playing all 53 minutes, with all three of his potential winners falling harmlessly to the floor in the final second of the game.
Here are three thoughts on the instant classic.
The two biggest stars delivered
If you wanted to see KD and Giannis go head to head, then Saturday’s showdown came in spades. Both players were sublime. While Antetokounmpo still took some misguided 3s, he was aggressive all night. He kept attacking the rim late, showing no fear of heading for the free throw line. (Giannis was 8 of 14 from the line, good enough all things considered.) He was a superstar, MVP, all-universe, top-tier performance from the Greek Freak, and he’s earned a respite from questions about his playoff prowess. . Win against Durant in Game 7 on the road? That is beyond great.
And in a way, Durant could have been better. He made some impressive shots down the stretch, including an athletic turnaround from the top point of the three-point line to send the game into extra period, which was millimeters from being a shot ahead. Durant gave Brooklyn everything he had and, unfortunately, he seemed to run out of gas near the end of the game. KD missed a couple of looks late, including three contested ones that could have won it all, but his effort was unassailable. The numbers Durant scored in this series, against a great team, with his limping supporting cast, playing in his first postseason since his torn Achilles, is the reason the sport of basketball is incredible. KD has mastered his craft and it was inspiring to watch.
Giannis and Durant’s displays only further cemented them at the top echelon of the league. Despite all the injuries in the playoffs overall, the Freak and KD far outperformed anyone who wanted to see some star power on Saturday.
The margins were super thin
The Bucks won this game, but just barely. The team that ended up losing would be devastated by the razor’s edge difference between these two clubs.
Milwaukee survived Saturday despite wildly unsatisfying shooting nights from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, poor offense and an even worse defensive rebound in overtime, as well as a foul by PJ Tucker.
The Nets were there despite an ineffective night of a slowed James Harden. The Beard scored 22 and was a perfect 10 of 10 from the line, but made just 5 of 17 shots from the field and missed 10 of his 12 three-point attempts. (Joe Harris continued to fight as well, hitting just three of nine triples, including a plum look in OT.)
It’s hard to say which of these teams is better than the other (injuries in this series are also the obvious elephant in the room) and Game 7 was especially illustrative in how close these teams were to each other. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, he will get stuck with the “What if?” until next season. What if Kyrie Irving played? What if Durant’s foot wasn’t at stake? Those millions of little moments are what make Game 7 so captivating. The Nets just found themselves on the wrong side of 50-50 situations.
Dollars are not out of the woods
Milwaukee showed incredible resolution in this series. The Bucks overcame a 2-0 deficit, a 3-2 deficit and won a Game 7 on the road. Those things are not easy, no matter the circumstances. A healthy Kevin Durant hadn’t been eliminated from the playoffs since 2016.
Still, it is difficult to firmly grasp what the roof of Milwaukee is. The Bucks needed every ounce of energy to knock out a seriously hampered Nets team, who missed Irving for the last half of the series, while Harden was clearly limping the last three games.
Expectations remain very high for Giannis and Co., and the weirdness of this postseason is creating a unique opportunity for the Bucks to win the Finals. But all the remaining teams in both conferences could pose unique challenges for Milwaukee.
For now, the Bucks have survived. Unlike the Nets, they have the privilege of solving their problems in the future.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.