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Kevin Durant doesn't get enough help from Nets teammates as Bucks force Game 7

Nets' Kevin Durant shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward

Nets' Kevin Durant shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the first half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Milwaukee. Credit: AP/Jeffrey Phelps

MILWAUKEE – Kevin Durant had yet another terrific playoff game with 32 points, but unlike the Nets’ inspiring Game 5 victory, he couldn’t get enough offensive help from his friends. Instead, it was the Bucks who evened the Eastern Conference semifinals at 3-3 with a 104-89 blowout victory Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.

It extended the Bucks’ home winning streak to 13 games, and set up Game 7 Saturday night at Barclays Center in a series in which the home team has won every game.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Nets put together a 10-0 burst with Joe Harris finally chipping in five points in addition to five from Durant to pull within 82-77 with 8:41 left. But whatever hopes the Nets had of wrapping up the series ended when the Bucks delivered a knockout punch of an 18-2 run that included nine straight points from Giannis Antetokounmpo before a four-point play from Khris Middleton with 4:45 remaining.

Coach Steve Nash agreed the Nets’ poor offense contributed to that critical stretch.

"We weren’t well tonight offensively," Nash said. "Out of rhythm, out of sync. We definitely didn’t play the way we wanted to play, the way we planned to play, and I would say that for the entire game.

"Defensively, we weren’t great, either, but not a disaster. Just not a great game from us, we just didn’t have our best stuff tonight. And we’ve got a Game 7 on our home floor."

Right after Harris made a three-pointer to pull the Nets within five, he fouled Middleton from three-point range and he made all three to trigger the Bucks’ 18-2 run. A Nets team that was dominated 26-4 by the Bucks in fast-break points simply didn’t have enough to catch up.

"The momentum switched when they came down and got three [foul] shots," Durant said. "They regrouped after that. Offensively for a couple possessions, we were stagnant, turned the ball over…Offense, we’re trying to patch things together and make plays for each other, but sometimes it’s not going to be there.

"Defensively, we tried to lock in as much as possible after our offense was starving. We put ourselves in position to be in the game late, but they made a huge run."

Middleton was a powerhouse for the Bucks with 38 points shooting 11-for-16, including 5 of 8 from three and two four-point plays. Healso added 10 rebounds. Antetokounmpo totaled 30 points and 17 rebounds, Jrue Holiday added 21 points, and the Bucks outrebounded the Nets, 51-39.

Durant added 11 rebounds and shot 15-forf-30 from the field, but the only other Nets in double figures were James Harden with 16 and Blake Griffin with 12.

In the Nets’ remarkable Game 5 comeback victory, Durant played all 48 minutes and Harden somehow played 46 with a heavily taped tight right hamstring. In Game 6, each logged 40 minutes.

Nash worried before the game about the risk of reinjury for Harden, but Nash shrugged and said, "James isn’t going to sit out. So that’s just what it is. He’s a soldier and a fighter and wants to be out there with his teammates."

After the game, Nash was happy to report Harden improved physically over Game 5, even though he remains far from his normal self.

"James was better tonight as far as what he was able to do," Nash said. "But you know, it’s tough. He’s really limited and he can’t do a lot of things that he’s accustomed to doing.

"I’m grateful that it doesn’t appear that he has any setbacks. But it’s a tough, tough position for James to be out there trying his best, trying to help this team and not be able to move the way he normally would."

The Nets entered the game with a negative point differential in the first quarter against the Bucks but were positive in each of the last three quarters. Once again, the Nets limped out of the starting gate, committing four turnovers in their first 10 possessions while falling behind, 18-5. It was an uphill climb from there, and the Nets never got closer than four points.

Nash said the Nets haven’t played well in Milwaukee, losing all five games at Fiserv Forum, and this maintained the pattern. "It was one of those nights where you could just tell we didn’t quite have our fastball," Nash said. "That’s what this is all about is persevering, is finding ways to come back and bounce back. That’s why we were able to push through and finished second in the East and that’s why we have Game 7 on our home floor."

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