Milwaukee’s hopes for its first NBA title since 1971 took another hit Wednesday night in Orlando and it did so in agonizing fashion.
After a questionable foul allowed Khris Middleton to hit three free throws to tie the game with 4.3 seconds left, perhaps an even more questionable foul on Giannis Antetokounmpo gave Miami’s Jimmy Butler two free throws with no time left to win it. He hit both, allowing the Heat to hold off the Bucks in a wild 116-114 win, giving them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Trailing by four entering the final period, Milwaukee took its first since the opening quarter after Middleton hit 2 of 3 from the free throw line and Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer. But a quick 7-0 run by Miami allowed the Heat to retake the lead.
Things looked lost for the Bucks as they trailed 113-107 with 19.8 seconds left. But an Antetokounmpo dunk, followed by a Brook Lopez steal and layup, cut the lead to two with 8.5 seconds left. Milwaukee fouled Butler and he made just one of the two free throws, giving the Bucks a chance. Middleton pulled up from the left side and released a three that didn’t go but a foul was called on Goran Dragic, setting the stage for the final seconds.
That Milwaukee was even close enough to make it a game was a minor miracle. The Bucks struggled to shoot from the outside, going just 7-for-25 from beyond the arc, while also continuing their propensity to turn the ball over. They had another 14 turnovers after giving it up 19 times in the loss in Game 1.
Miami has now won four of the five matchups between the two teams this year, one of the few organizations with a winning record against the Bucks.
Milwaukee was paced by Antetokounmpo’s 29 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bucks were minus-7 with him on the court. They were minus-14 with him in Game 1, giving him a negative plus/minus in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.
Middleton had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe chipped in 16 and seven rebounds after missing the first game with a hamstring injury.
George Hill had 14 points off the bench, but the rest of the substitutes combined for just 12.
Two days after going for 40 points, Butler was held to only 13 but the rest of the roster picked him up. That included getting 23 from Goran Dragic and a huge 17 points from West Allis, Wis., product Tyler Herro.
This is the 19th time Milwaukee has fallen down 0-2 in a series. The Bucks have not come back to win any of those.
Game 3 in the NBA bubble is set for Friday night.