MIAMI, United States, Aug 20 – The Milwaukee Bucks stepped it up on Thursday, bouncing back from a humbling loss to beat the Orlando Magic 111-96 and knot their NBA playoff series at one game apiece.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 28 points and 20 rebounds as the Bucks brought the defensive intensity that carried them to the league’s best regular-season record.
“We weren’t playing hard enough,” Antetokounmpo said of the 122-110 upset loss to Orlando in the playoff opener in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Florida.
“Our whole mindset this game was to come out, play hard, play together and as long as we got stops we were going to figure it out on offense. I think the team did a great job first quarter, setting the tone. Coming out hard, playing hard, rebounding the ball and just making the right play.”
Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Pat Connaughton chipped in 15 for the Bucks, who led by as many as 23 in the first half.
Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic followed up his 35-point game one performance with 32 points.
But Milwaukee held the Magic without a point in the paint for the whole of the first quarter and out-rebounded Orlando 57-42.
“The effort was definitely an ‘A,’” Lopez said. “That’s the most important thing. Game one they came in and they out-worked us, that’s not something we can allow. That’s not the team we are.”
The Houston Rockets and Miami Heat both took commanding 2-0 leads in their best-of-seven series.
Houston, still playing without injured point guard Russell Westbrook, triumphed despite a poor shooting night for star James Harden, who connected on just 5-of-16 shots from the floor on the way to 21 points.
But seven Rockets players scored in double figures and Houston made 19 of their NBA playoff-record 56 three-point attempts to take a commanding lead in the Western Conference clash.
“Couldn’t make a shot, but I’m more than just a shot-maker,” Harden said. “I just tried to be active defensively, tried to do other things to impact the game.”
– ‘Turned the whole game around’ –
Trailing 59-53 at halftime, Houston opened the third period on a 13-0 run to regain the advantage but trailed by one point going into the final frame.
After Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul hit a jumper seconds into the fourth, Houston put together a 17-0 scoring run, shutting out the Thunder for more than five minutes with a tremendous defensive display to put the game out of reach.
Just two points in the run came from NBA scoring champion Harden.
“My teammates, man, they did an unbelievable job, especially in that fourth quarter getting stops,” Harden said. “I think we got five, six stops in a row and just turned the whole game around.”
Miami guard Duncan Robinson made seven of eight from three-point range for a game-high 24 points in the Heat’s 109-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
“You see some go early, the hoop starts to look a little bigger,” said Robinson, who made his first six shots and matched a club one-game playoff record with seven three-pointers.
The Heat went 18-of-35 from beyond the arc, setting a new team playoff record for three-pointers.
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who missed much of the opener after being poked in the eye, led the Pacers with 22 points.