Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton scored a game-high 36 points and hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime as the Bucks staved off elimination and delivered a 118-115 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday near Orlando.
Game 5 is Tuesday near Orlando.
Milwaukee, the top seed in the East, lost the first three games of the best-of-seven series to fifth-seeded Miami.
Things were bleak early for Milwaukee when All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has earned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the last two seasons, turned his injured right ankle and went to the locker-room with 10:18 remaining in the second quarter. Milwaukee trailed 31-30 at the time.
Middleton said one thought went through his mind late in the game.
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“Just keep fighting,” he said. “I saw what my teammates did. We all fought.”
Milwaukee had six players score in double figures led by Middleton, Antetokounmpo (19 points, four rebounds in 11 minutes), Brook Lopez (14 points), Eric Bledsoe (14 points), George Hill (12 points) and Donte DiVencenzo (10), who forced overtime when he hit his second of two free throws to tie the game at 107 with 1.9 seconds left in regulation.
Miami was led in scoring by Bam Adebayo (26 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) and Duncan Robinson (20 points). Jae Crowder scored 18 and Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic added 17 apiece.
Antetokounmpo was questionable entering the game due to that ankle injury he sustained in Friday’s Game 3. At halftime it was announced Antetokounmpo was out for the rest of the game.
But the Bucks, who never trailed in overtime, only got stronger from there.
It was a wild final minute of overtime just as it was a wild final minute of regulation.
Miami’s Tyler Herro hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in overtime to get Miami within a point at 116-115. That was after Middleton hit a 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds left to give the Bucks a 116-112 lead. That followed a 3-pointer by Herro with 30.1 seconds left to cut Miami’s deficit to 113-112.
Milwaukee avoided an unenviable distinction with the victory. The last time the team with the best regular-season record was swept in playoffs was 2001 when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
But the Bucks still must pull a small miracle to avoid history. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit and won a series in 139 attempts.