Nets have no answers for Bucks’ Khris Middleton

MILWAUKEE — Brooklyn’s third star is out with a sprained ankle. Milwaukee’s went off for a game-high 38 points.

That kind of discrepancy again in Saturday night’s do-or-die Eastern Conference semifinal Game 7 will send Khris Middleton and the Bucks to the conference final and the Nets on vacation.

“I mean, obviously, we kind of let him out of the bag [in Game 6]. We’ve just got to play better,” Steve Nash said after the Nets’ 104-89 loss to the Bucks. “We put him on the line when we didn’t need to. We gave up a couple of open shots in transition and then offensive rebounds, things like that get someone going.

“We’ve got to take away some situations and just play a little better, a little harder, a little more concentration, and if we add it all up, I think we can do a better job.”

Middleton also had 10 rebounds, five assists and shot 11 of 16 from the floor. But it was the Nets’ penchant for giving him free points — 11 of 12 from the foul line — that came back to bite them.

Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton
NBAE via Getty Images

After Joe Harris fouled Middleton to give him a four-point play with 10:43 left in the first half, he fouled him again at the arc to hand him three free throws to spark a 14-0 run in the fourth.

“Yeah Middleton, first two 3s he hit were off offensive rebounds, kickout 3s. And then we fouled him a couple times, got to the free-throw line,” Kevin Durant said. “I think we fouled him three times shooting 3s so that got his rhythm going.

“He’s a shot-maker. You see the ball go in the basket you get more confidence. So we fouled him on 3s. Every time it felt like they got an offensive rebound he hit a 3. He made timely shots for them.”

Durant (32 points, 11 boards) has topped 30 points in consecutive games for the third time in these playoffs. All other Nets in the franchise’s NBA history have combined to crack 30 points in consecutive playoff games exactly once: Vince Carter in 2006.

Harris, Durant, James Harden, Jeff Green and Blake Griffin started. It was the Nets’ fourth different starting lineup of the playoffs and their 41st lineup of the season (regular season and postseason combined).

Green, coming off a playoff career high 27 points, got his first playoff start since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals with Cleveland at Boston on May 27, 2018.

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