NBA playoffs: Kyrie Irving injured as Bucks even series with Nets; Suns advance
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 Game 4 victory on Sunday to tie their second-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, who lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks erased a 2-0 deficit by winning two straight in Milwaukee. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of its superstar trio.
Irving got hurt midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. X-rays on Irving’s ankle were negative and he will undergo further testing, Nets coach Steve Nash said after the game. The Nets already are missing nine-time All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden, who hasn’t played since the opening minute of Game 1 because of right hamstring tightness.
An aggressive Paul George scored 31 points in the Clippers’ needed Game 3 victory over the Utah Jazz, and L.A. still has a shot at playoff history.
That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant, who has carried the Nets this series and provided 28 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The only other Net in double figures was Irving, who had 11 points before leaving.
After Irving made a basket in the paint to cut the Bucks’ lead to 44-40 midway through the second quarter, his left leg hit the right leg of Antetokounmpo on his way down and his ankle rolled. Irving landed awkwardly and clutched his right ankle as play briefly continued on the other end of the floor.
When play stopped because of a change of possession, team officials went to the floor to check on Irving, who appeared in pain on the floor before being able to walk to the locker room. The Nets announced at halftime that the seven-time All-Star wouldn’t return to the game.
The Bucks already had taken the lead for good even before Irving’s injury.
They got more balance Sunday after eking out an 86-83 victory in Game 3, when Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo combined for 68 points, 79% of the Bucks’ scoring output. That marked the highest percentage of a team’s points that a duo had combined to score in any NBA playoff game ever.
Middleton scored 19 points, Jrue Holiday had 14, P.J. Tucker got 13 and Bryn Forbes added 10 for the Bucks.
After falling behind 9-2 in the opening minutes, Milwaukee rallied to go in front 23-21 on Brook Lopez’s three-pointer late in the first quarter. But the Nets answered by scoring 13 straight points.
Milwaukee responded by going on a 19-4 run to regain the lead. That stretch was highlighted by a 12-0 spurt that included a four-point play from Middleton, two corner three-pointers from Tucker and a dunk from Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks built a 17-point lead in the third quarter. When the Nets got it down to nine, Middleton answered by sinking a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the period.
Milwaukee maintained a double-digit edge throughout the fourth quarter. The Nets removed their starters as the Bucks led 99-84 with 4:28 left, and the Fiserv Forum crowd chanted “Bucks In Six!” as the final seconds ticked away.
Suns 125, Nuggets 118
DENVER — The Phoenix Suns roared into the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 11 years with a testy victory over Denver that completed a four-game sweep of the Nuggets and included MVP Nikola Jokic’s ejection.
Chris Paul scored 37 points and Devin Booker added 34 in a physical game marred by Jokic’s ejection.
Jokic was tossed with 3:52 left in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his hard right-hand windmill swipe sent the basketball flying but also caught Cameron Payne in the face.
Booker took umbrage at the hard foul and got in the big man’s face before teammates and coaches pulled everyone apart.
Officials assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and ejected the MVP after upping the call to a Flagrant 2. Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets and their fans at Ball Arena were frustrated that they were getting called for ticky-tack fouls yet Jokic wasn’t getting the calls expected of a Most Valuable Player.
With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010 — the last time they even reached the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in Round 1, the Suns quickly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since Magic Johnson in 1989.
Will Barton led Denver, which trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, with 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 20 and Monte Morris 19.
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