Bucks Beat Trae Young, Hawks to Advance to NBA Finals as Giannis Sits with Injury
AP Photo/John Bazemore
Khris Middleton scored 23 third-quarter points en route to 32 overall as the Milwaukee Bucks advanced to the NBA Finals with a 118-107 win over the host Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Finals series on Saturday in State Farm Arena.
The Bucks led 47-45 early in the third quarter after a layup from Hawks center Clint Capela, but Middleton went on a personal 13-0 run to give Milwaukee a 60-45 edge.
The Bucks, who never trailed, led 91-72 heading into the fourth quarter and held an advantage of six or more points for the remainder of the game despite a late Hawks charge.
Jrue Holiday complemented Middleton’s effort by posting a near-triple-double (27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds) to help overcome the absence of Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who remained out of the lineup with a hyperextended left knee suffered in Game 4.
Hawks guard and 2019-20 All-Star Trae Young returned after missing two games with a right foot bone bruise suffered in Game 3. He had 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting, nine assists and five turnovers.
Cam Reddish excelled off the bench, dropping a team-high 21 points and hitting six of seven three-pointers.
The Bucks are now seeking their first NBA title since 1971, when they swept the Baltimore Bullets in the championship round. They haven’t played in the Finals since 1974.
Bucks F Khris Middleton: 32 points, 7 assists, 3 steals
Bucks G Jrue Holiday: 27 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 steals
Bucks G Pat Connaughton: 13 points, 8 rebounds
Hawks SF Cam Reddish: 21 points
Hawks SG Bogdan Bogdanovic: 20 points, 3 steals
Hawks PG Trae Young: 14 points, 9 assists
Without Giannis, Middleton Guides Bucks Into NBA Finals
The Bucks faced a tough task when Antetokounmpo, who averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists during the regular season, suffered a knee injury during Game 4.
That’s a lot of production to replace in short order, and the Bucks faltered without their superstar in Game 4, eventually losing 110-88.
However, the Bucks rebounded and were able to make the NBA Finals without Antetokounmpo, and Middleton played the biggest role in that effort.
Middleton posted 26 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in Game 5, which the Bucks won 123-112.
On Saturday, the two-time All-Star caught fire during his personal 13-0 third-quarter run, hitting a pair of three-pointers, a couple of two-point buckets and a three-point play in a two-minute span. He ended up scoring the Bucks’ first 16 third-quarter points en route to 23 in the frame on 8-of-11 shooting.
🔥 23 for Khris Middleton in the 3Q, including the first 16 <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bucks?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Bucks</a> points! 🔥<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAECF?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAECF</a> presented by AT&T on TNT <a href=”https://t.co/XMbGFPAItw”>pic.twitter.com/XMbGFPAItw</a>
Middleton simply caught fire, and his efforts were duly noted:
Taking over quarters in the playoffs isn’t new to Middleton, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
He also made some Bucks history along the way:
Khris Middleton scored 23 PTS in the third quarter tonight. Entering tonight, no <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bucks?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Bucks</a> player had 23+ PTS in an <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAPlayoffs?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAPlayoffs</a> quarter over the last 30 seasons. <a href=”https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@EliasSports</a> <a href=”https://t.co/FKTcHEBgaK”>pic.twitter.com/FKTcHEBgaK</a>
Most importantly, though, Middleton’s third-quarter outburst ultimately gave the Bucks enough cushion to survive a late fourth-quarter run from the Hawks, who fought until the very end.
However, Middleton proved to be too strong on this night, and now Milwaukee is looking for its first championship in 50 years.
A championship drought will end shortly.
The Bucks will face the Phoenix Suns, who have never won a title and are making their first Finals appearance since 1993.
Game 1 will be at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.
This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.
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