MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 Game 4 victory on Sunday to tie their second-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, who lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks erased a 2-0 deficit by winning two straight in Milwaukee. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of its superstar trio.
Irving got hurt midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. The Nets already are missing nine-time All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden, who hasn’t played since the opening minute of Game 1 due to right hamstring tightness.
That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant, who has carried the Nets this series and provided 28 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The only other Net in double figures was Irving, who had 11 points before leaving.
After Irving made a basket in the paint to cut the Bucks’ lead to 44-40 midway through the second quarter, his left leg hit the right leg of Antetokounmpo on his way down and his ankle rolled. Irving landed awkwardly and clutched his right ankle as play briefly continued on the other end of the floor.
When play stopped due to a change of possession, team officials went to the floor to check on Irving, who appeared in pain on the floor before being able to walk to the locker room. The Nets announced at halftime that the seven-time All-Star wouldn’t return to the game.
Coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays taken on Irving’s ankle were negative.
The Bucks already had taken the lead for good even before Irving’s injury.
They got more balance Sunday after eking out an 86-83 victory in Game 3, when Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo combined for 68 points, 79% of the Bucks’ scoring output. That marked the highest percentage of a team’s points that a duo had combined to score in any NBA playoff game ever.
Middleton scored 19 points, Jrue Holiday had 14, P.J. Tucker got 13 and Bryn Forbes added 10 for the Bucks.
After falling behind 9-2 in the opening minutes, Milwaukee rallied to go in front 23-21 on Brook Lopez’s 3-pointer late in the first quarter. But the Nets answered by scoring 13 straight points.
Milwaukee responded by going on a 19-4 run to regain the lead. That stretch was highlighted by a 12-0 spurt that included a four-point play from Middleton, two corner 3-pointers from Tucker and a dunk from Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks built a 17-point lead in the third quarter. When the Nets got it down to nine, Middleton answered by sinking a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the period.
Milwaukee maintained a double-digit edge throughout the fourth quarter. The Nets removed their starters as the Bucks led 99-84 with 4:28 left, and the Fiserv Forum crowd chanted “Bucks In Six!” as the final seconds ticked away.
Nets: Forward Jeff Green played 27 minutes and had eight points and five rebounds while playing for the first time since Game 2 of Brooklyn’s first-round series with Boston. Green had been out due to a plantar fascia strain. Green, who started 38 games this season, came off the bench Sunday.
Bucks: Tucker’s 13-point performance came after he scored a total of nine points in the first three games of this series. … The Bucks shot 16 of 47 from 3-point range Sunday after going 20 of 88 from beyond the arc in the first three games of this series. … Guard Pat Connaughton left in the third quarter with a cut near his left eye but later returned to the game.