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The Milwaukee Bucks have taken a 2-1 series lead over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in large part to Khris Middleton who exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. (Photo : Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay)
The Milwaukee Bucks regained homecourt advantage after beating the Atlanta Hawks, 113-102, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton spearheaded the Bucks who now hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Middleton torches Hawks with 20-point barrage in fourth quarter
Middleton delivered a fourth quarter for the ages to help the Bucks wrest control of the series. Trailing for majority of the contest, it was Middleton who closed the deal for Milwaukee, scoring 20 of his game-high 38 points in the final quarter. Such was Middleton’s dominance in the payoff period that Middleton outscored the Hawks all by himself (20-17) in the fourth quarter.
Middleton found his shooting stroke at exactly the right time, just when the Hawks were threatening to take the series lead once again. Middleton just wouldn’t be denied on Sunday, going 6-for-11 on contested shots in the fourth quarter, tying the mark for the most contested makes in a fourth quarter in this year’s playoffs.
After shooting just 33.8 percent from beyond the arc since the beginning of Milwaukee’s last series against Brooklyn, Middleton’s outside bombs finally connected in Game 3, going 6 of 12 from three-point range against the Hawks. He buried three of his six three-pointers during a critical 15-3 run in the fourth period that turned a 95-88 deficit into a 103-98 Milwaukee lead.
He made history on Sunday, becoming the first Bucks player to score 20 points in a fourth quarter of a playoff game in the past 25 postseasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A 20-point playoff quarter is nothing new to Middleton, though, who accomplished this feat once before.
The Hawks will be in deep trouble if Middleton continues to stay hot the rest of the series. When he shoots 40% or better in this postseason, the Bucks are a perfect 9-0. When Middleton shot below 40% in this year’s playoffs, the Bucks went 1-4.
It wasn’t just Middleton who picked apart the Atlanta defense in Game 3. Antetokounmpo was once again unstoppable for Milwaukee, registering yet another double-double performance with 33 points and 11 rebounds across 41 minutes of action.
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Hawks in danger as Young injures ankle
Quite concerning for the Hawks is the injury situation of star point guard Trae Young. He suffered an ankle injury with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter after he inadvertently stepped on the right foot of referee Sean Wright, who was standing out of bounds at that time.
Young immediately fell to the ground and didn’t return until the 8:44 mark of the fourth quarter with the Hawks leading by five, 93-88. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Young was ineffective in his return, scoring just three points on 1 of 4 shooting in seven minutes and 53 seconds of action in the fourth quarter, with the Bucks outscoring the Hawks, 25-9, during that stretch.
It was a disappointing turn of events for Young who was playing some lights out basketball in the first three quarters of Game 3. Prior to the injury, Young had scored 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
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