Bucks fend off Kevin Durant, Nets in thrilling OT battle to reach Eastern Conference finals

Kevin Durant did everything in his power to lead the Brooklyn Nets out of Game 7 and into the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

Somehow, though, it wasn’t quite enough.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks survived a thrilling overtime battle with the Nets 115-111 at the Barclays Center to reach their second conference finals in three years.

Kevin Durant forces OT with wild shot

After a battle worthy of a Game 7 through the first three quarters, both teams were neck and neck throughout the final period on Saturday night.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks heads for the net as Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets defends in the second half during game seven of the Eastern Conference second round at Barclays Center on June 19, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of  New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Somehow, Kevin Durant's heroics wasn't enough to lead the Nets past Milwaukee. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Bucks, after pushing ahead slightly in the final minutes, had a chance to make it a two-possession game with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. The Nets, though, forced a shot clock violation out of an inbounds play after trapping Brook Lopez in the corner to reclaim the ball down just two points.

"That's me. I gotta help him better. I gotta do better," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said, via The Athletic's Eric Nehm. "I think [we were] fortunate to come out and get the win, but in some ways, all of us were more motivated to make sure we got it, but that's on me."

That’s when Durant showed up to temporarily save the Nets’ season.

Durant, after catching a long inbounds pass, drilled what looked like a wild contested 3-pointer with less than two seconds left — appearing to put the Nets up by one. A review, however, showed that Durant’s toes were barely on the 3-point line, which changed the bucket back and ended up sending the game into overtime instead.

The Nets then scored almost instantly in the extra period, thanks to a Bruce Brown bucket, but then both teams went cold. It wasn’t until Antetokounmpo made a layup to tie the game up with just 72 seconds remaining, and then Khris Middleton hit a mid-range jumper of his own to put them ahead.

Durant had one final shot to keep their postseason hopes alive, but fatigue seems to have set in. After playing in every single minute of the game, Durant’s final shot from the top of the key missed the rim entirely — sealing the win for the Bucks.

Antetokounmpo finished with 40 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 15-of-24 from the field. Middleton added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Pat Connaughton added nine off the bench — which made him the only bench player in the whole game to score.

Durant finished with 48 points for Brooklyn, the most scored by any player in a Game 7 in NBA history, and came just shy of a triple-double with nine rebounds and six assists. James Harden added 22 points with his near triple-double, too, while also playing in all 53 minutes.

“It’s just an unbelievable effort, they gave us everything they had,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “[We faced] so much adversity this year. [It was our] first year together, so many changes to the roster, so many injuries, COVID protocols, they couldn’t have given us anything more. To take that team, without [Kyrie Irving] and James [Harden] on one leg out there doing anything he can to help his teammates … I don’t know what more Kevin could do. It’s just out of this world.”

The Bucks will now advance to take on either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals. The 76ers-Hawks series will conclude on Sunday night following their Game 7 matchup.

"You've got to give credit to the Milwaukee Bucks who are a great, great team and have a chance to win a championship,” Durant said, via the New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield. “The story should be about them."

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