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. 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 owing to right hamstring tightness.
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.
Coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays taken on Irving’s ankle were negative.
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 per cent 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.
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.