MIAMI – From the moment Khris Middleton stepped into a four-point game at 10:10 of the first quarter to give the Milwaukee Bucks a 6-2 lead over the Miami Heat, he was there to kill the mood for 17,000 fans at American Airlines Arena.
The biggest crowd in an NBA arena in over a year saw Middleton repeatedly quell any urge to stand up and cheer as the Bucks took a 3-0 lead in the series with a victory of 113-84 Thursday evening.
While the Bucks were never left behind after Middleton’s four-point game started and actually led quite comfortably throughout, any sense of momentum created by the Heat was appeased by the wing of 29 years.
“We started to shoot the ball a bit slowly but we were able to settle in,” said Middleton. “It’s harder on the road. I think it’s our first road game – jumping last year – in two years. Just being in a different environment and not really playing on the road this year with fans that much, it gets rowdy. It took a little while for us to settle in and do what we needed to do. “
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CALENDAR OF READING:First round matches, results, match schedules and TV info
The metronomic way Middleton responded to whatever the Heat did offensively suits the two-time soft-spoken All-Star, though the timely buckets further exemplify the poise he showed in hitting his winner in the first game. He led the Bucks with 22 points while adding eight rebounds and five assists.
“Close-ups,” Jrue Holiday said. “He does it all the time and he does it for his career. To be able to cut that out of the game where they’re about to race or they’ve been racing and trying to cut their momentum, Khris did that, so we know who to talk to. “
And if Middleton was the regular beats per minute, Holiday made sure the rest of the Bucks didn’t inadvertently speed up or slow down.
“I think he can play at any pace and in the squad, that’s what we’re working on,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Holiday. “We have to keep improving so that we can play at different speeds, at different paces.”
Holiday gave out 12 assists and scored 19 points and allowed the Bucks to play evenly on both sides of the field, even as the Heat increased the pressure (forcing $ 15 in turnovers when the starters were on the line) and making life difficult. Giannis Antetokounmpo (17 points, 17 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (13 points) on the inside.
Tough, yes, but Middleton and Holiday’s steady play established a baseline the Heat just couldn’t crack. – Jim Owczarski
Series Status: Bucks leads 3-0. Game 4 is Saturday in Miami (1:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Nuggets 120, Blazers 115
The stars stepped forward, but the Nuggets were able to keep the win thanks to key contributions from one of their cast. Austin Rivers scored 21 points and hit four straight 3-pointers in a crucial fourth-quarter run for Denver. Nikola Jokic had 36 points and 11 rebounds and sealed the win with a rebound from a missed free throw in the dying seconds after Portland had a less than three out. Damian Lillard scored 37 points for the Blazers, who received a boost from 17 from Carmelo Anthony on the bench. But the Blazers struggled from the 3-point range and finished 14 of 45 (31.1%), while the Nuggets were 20 of 38 (52.6%).
Series Status: The Nuggets lead 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday in Portland (4 p.m. ET, TNT).
Lakers 109, Suns 95
After dropping the series opener, the Lakers appear to have turned the boat around and slammed things after taking the series lead 2-1. Anthony Davis played with a sore left knee and finished with a dominant of 34 points, including 18 in the third quarter to help the Lakers take control of the game. LeBron James scored 21 points as the Lakers overcame a terrible 3-point night (7 of 28, 25%). Their suffocating defense made up for any difficulty in shooting. Chris Paul was again limited for the Suns and only played 27 minutes due to his bruised right shoulder.
Series Status: The Lakers lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Los Angeles (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Here’s where the rest of the round one series starting on Friday fall:
Knicks vs. Hawks
Put aside the behavior of the fans, it’s already a fun, entertaining and competitive series. This game is a bit of a slog with the way both teams play defense. Trae Young is the focal point of the Atlanta attack, and he delivered. But the Hawks are shooting just 30.8% from 3 points, including 27.3% from Bogdan Bogdanovic, 28.6% from Kevin Huerter and 18.8% from Danilo Gallinari. Veteran Derrick Rose came for the Knicks. Now they need Most Improved Player Winner Julius Randle (15 points per game in the series) to shoot better than 28.2% on the field and 27.3% on 3 points. The same goes for RJ Barrett and his 37.9% on the field and 27.3% on 3s. Obviously the 3-point shot will be a deciding factor for this series.
Series Status: Tie at 1-1. Game three is Friday in Atlanta (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Nets vs. Celtics
Boston is in a deep hole, and it looks like it’s only going to get deeper. The Celtics struggle to score and defend themselves in this series. The Brooklyn Big 3s of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden present mismatch issues for most teams, that’s a big deal for the Celtics. And when the Nets get 25 points from Joe Harris, like they did in Game 2, they are even harder to beat. The Celtics don’t have a reliable bench, so they’ll have to rely on starters to win a home game.
Series Status: The nets lead 2-0. Game 3 is Friday in Boston (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Clippers vs. Mavericks
This it’s not a good look for the Clippers so far. They scapegoated Doc Rivers after last season’s playoff loss and hired Ty Lue. It seems they were trying to figure out how fast they were going to see the Lakers in a potential playoff series. Now they lose 2-0 to Dallas, losing at home to start the series. Maybe Rivers wasn’t the problem. For a moment, forget about Mavs stars Luka Doncic, who was the best player on the pitch. It’s time for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the rest of the Clippers to prove they are a championship-caliber team. Or maybe we find out that they are not.
Series Status: The Mavericks lead 2-0. Game three is Friday in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Sixers vs. sorcerers
The seeded Sixers are well seated after taking home court to open the series. If they continue to the aggressive Ben Simmons of game 2, the Sixers should easily manage the Wizards and position themselves well for the playoff race they plan to do. Simmons tallied 22 points in Game 2 after scoring just six in Game 1 on 3 of 9 shots. fan who threw popcorn at Russell Westbrook was the dominant storyline in Game 2, but the incident overshadowed the ankle injury that forced the Wizards star to miss the fourth quarter. Westbrook’s status for Game 3 is uncertain.
Series Status: The Sixers lead 2-0. Game 3 is Saturday in Washington (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Jazz vs. Grizzlies
Ja Morant’s historic performance through two games helped the eighth seeded Grizzlies part ways in Utah. After a franchise record of 47 points in Game 2, Morant has 73 points in the series, the second-most points in NBA history in a player’s first two playoff games. Utah welcomed top scorer Donovan Mitchell to the roster in Game 2, and it did not show any ill effects from sprained right ankle it kept him from going out for six weeks. The Jazz have been relying heavily on 3-point shooting all season, and it was a big indicator of success in the first two games of the series: they were 12 of 47 (25.5%) in their loss in the first. match and 19 out of -39 (48.7%) in the victory of match 2.
Series Status: Tie at 1-1. Game three is Saturday in Memphis (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).