Bucks refuse to say goodbye without a fight

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo driving for the basket around Boston Celtics forward Al Horford (left), as forward Jayson Tatum fails to keep pace in Game 6 of their NBA play-offs first-round clash. The series is tied at 3-3.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo driving for the basket around Boston Celtics forward Al Horford (left), as forward Jayson Tatum fails to keep pace in Game 6 of their NBA play-offs first-round clash. The series is tied at 3-3.PHOTO: REUTERS

MILWAUKEE (Wisconsin) • The Milwaukee Bucks were not going to sign off after nearly 30 years at the BMO Harris Bradley Centre with a whimper.

They will be moving to an as-yet-unamed spanking new arena for the start of the 2018-19 National Basketball Association (NBA) season, but before that happens, the Bucks - who have yet to taste defeat in Milwaukee throughout the first-round play-off series - will fight tooth and nail to protect their home court.

And if the seventh-seeded team in the East can bring that same intensity on the road to the TD Garden today, they might yet get to defend it for a few more magical play-off nights just like Game 6 on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the hosts forced a decisive seventh game with a 97-86 win over the Boston Celtics in their first-round play-off series.

Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon each scored 16 and both Jabari Parker and Eric Bledsoe finished with nine for a Milwaukee team that bounced back from a 87-92 loss in Boston on Tuesday in Game 5.

"We said as a team before the game that we were going to play hard, we were going to win this game no matter what, and that the season's not going to end here," Antetokounmpo told TNT in a post-game interview.

Jayson Tatum had 22 points and Terry Rozier contributed 18 points for the Celtics, while team-mates Jaylen Brown scored 14 points, Marcus Morris added 12 points and Al Horford totalled 10 points.

The odds are, however, stacked in favour of the Celtics, who are 22-8 in Game 7s, while the Bucks are 2-7. Boston have a 35-0 record in play-off series after winning the first two games unlike Milwaukee, who have never won in 17 prior series after trailing 0-2.

But try to telling that to Antetokounmpo and "The Greek Freak" welcomed the high-stakes battle for the winner-takes-all game, saying: "The series hasn't started yet."

His team-mates are equally bullish about their chances of an upset and they know with him on fire, anything is possible.

The winner of Game 7 will face the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Elsewhere, the NBA on Thursday validated the Pacers' belief that Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James' play prior to his buzzer-beating three-point winner on Wednesday night should have been called for illegal goaltending.

Indiana's Victor Oladipo had laid the ball off the glass moments before James swatted away the attempt. Cleveland came up with the rebound with three seconds left, called timeout and set up a play on which James hit a three-pointer to give Cleveland the 98-95 victory and a 3-2 lead in their series.

The NBA noted in its Last Two Minute Report that the game referees had missed the call.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Bucks refuse to say goodbye without a fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe