Miami Heat left the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on the brink of defeat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after a stunning fourth-quarter blitz in Florida.
- Points: Brook Lopez – 22
- Assists: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 9
- Rebounds: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 16
- Points: Jimmy Butler – 30
- Assists: Jimmy Butler – 6
- Rebounds: Bam Adebayo – 16
Heat lead series 3-0
Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 30 points as the fifth-seeded Heat moved into a 3-0 Eastern Conference semi-final lead over the Bucks, who looked like hauling themselves into the series until a fourth quarter run gave the Heat a 115-100 win.
The Bucks led at the end of the first, second and third quarters but came undone down the stretch. The top seeds last led at 99-98 after a Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk with 4:41 to go, but they managed just one point over the remainder of the game with the Heat outscoring them 17-1 down the stretch.
Game 4 in the series is set for Sunday and Bucks face the daunting prospect of overturning a 3-0 deficit – something that has never been done before in the playoffs, while Miami go from strength to strength having swept the fourth seed Indiana Pacers in round one.
Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, had 21 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks for Milwaukee. However, he shot just 7-for-21 from the floor, including 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Miami also got 20 points and a team-high 16 rebounds from Bam Adebayo. Jae Crowder made a big contribution with 17 points, sinking 5 of 11 three-point attempts, while Milwaukee got a team-high 22 points from Brook Lopez plus 18 points from Khris Middleton.
Miami played without reserve center Kelly Olynyk, who has a knee injury, but had enough depth to win, with rookie Tyler Herro providing 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Milwaukee led 30-29 after the first quarter, shooting 54.5 per ent from the floor in the period, including 4-for-6 on three-point tries. while Miami shot at 47.6 per cent in an opening quarter that saw five lead changes and four tied scores.
The Bucks used a 12-3 second-quarter run to lead by as many as 10 points, settling for a 57-50 advantage at half-time.
However, Antetokounmpo was held to seven points in the half, missing all four of his three-point attempts as Middleton (14 points) and Lopez (13 points) led Milwaukee’s first-half charge.
Meanwhile, no Heat player scored in double figures in the opening half before their second half onslaught. Miami went on a 10-0 run to take a 67-66 lead with 5:53 left in the third,
But Milwaukee responded and a 21-8 surge took them into an 87-75 lead going into the final period.
The Heat trailed by 11 early in the fourth quarter before a 14-2 run gave them a 94-93 lead after two Butler free throws with 6:16 left in the fourth.
With just under five minutes remaining Antetokounmpo’s dunk put the Bucks 99-98 in front but they found just a solitary score in the remaining time as Miami claimed 17 of the last 18 points to stand one game away from a return to the Eastern Finals for the first time since 2014.