MILWAUKEE (AP) — For at least one night, the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t miss Giannis Antetokounmpo at all.
Brook Lopez scored 25 points, Jrue Holiday added 24 and the hot-shooting Bucks withstood Antetokounmpo’s absence while trouncing the Miami Heat 138-122 on Wednesday, tying their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.
Milwaukee shot 25 of 49 from 3-point range to match an NBA record for 3-pointers in a game as the Bucks showcased their depth by thriving without their two-time MVP. Pat Connaughton, who hadn’t even played in Game 1, scored a playoff career-high 22 points and shot 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“Everyone’s ready,” Lopez said. “Everyone has the right mentality coming into the game — the mentality it takes to be a Milwaukee Buck. There’s no one above anyone else. We’re just out there trying to win.”
Antetokounmpo remained out for Milwaukee after leaving the Bucks’ 130-117 Game 1 loss early in the second quarter with a bruised lower back. He suffered the injury on a hard fall after getting fouled late in the first period during a drive to the basket.
“We’ll continue to monitor him and expect for him to improve and still continue to be optimistic that soon he’ll be ready to play,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game.
The Bucks’ ability to succeed without their superstar assured this series would be tied as it heads to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday.
“I would like to be up 2-0, but that’s in the past now,” said Jimmy Butler, who led the Heat with 25 points. “So we’re taking it to the crib, and we’ve got to handle business on our home floor.”
Milwaukee now shares the NBA record for 3-pointers in a playoff game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made 25 in a 123-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the 2016 East semifinals.
It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that shot 11 of 45 from beyond the arc in its Game 1 loss.
“There was a stretch there where it seemed like everything was going in,” said Grayson Allen, who was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and scored 16 points.
Allen was one of six Bucks with at least 16 points as Milwaukee relied on a team effort to make up for Antetokounmpo’s absence. Joe Ingles had 17 points while shooting 5 of 6 from beyond the arc. Khris Middleton had 16.
“It takes the whole team,” Middleton said. “I think you saw that tonight. It wasn’t just one guy that carried us. A lot of people expect me or Jrue to take on all the load that Giannis does, but what he does, we can’t match. So we have to do it by committee.”
The Bucks also were missing guard Wesley Matthews, who had strained his right calf in Game 1. The Heat didn’t have Tyler Herro, who broke his right hand in Game 1 and likely won’t return this season unless Miami reaches the NBA Finals.
The Bucks initially thrived by relying on the same formula they used the last time they played a home postseason game without Antetokounmpo. They gave the ball to Lopez early and often.
Lopez, who scored just 10 points in Game 1, had 14 by the end of the first quarter Wednesday. During Milwaukee’s 2021 title run, Lopez had scored a playoff career-high 34 points to help the Bucks beat the Hawks 123-112 in Game 5 of the East finals while Antetokounmpo was out with a hyperextended left knee.
The success of Lopez inside opened things up for everyone on the perimeter.
Connaughton sank a 3-pointer that capped an 11-0 run to put Milwaukee ahead 62-41 with 5:29 left in the second quarter. Butler ended that spurt by making two free throws, but the Bucks scored the next 13 points – including seven from Ingles – to grab a 32-point lead.
“They had some good, clean, easy looks in the beginning,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said., “And then once they got on a roll, they were hitting some tough step-backs, stuff at the end of the shot clock. Any time there was kind of a momentum shift, they seemed to knock down a big one.”
The Bucks led by as many as 36 in the third quarter. The Heat outscored the Bucks 37-20 in the fourth quarter to make the final score somewhat respectable. TIP-INS
Heat: Duncan Robinson replaced Herro in the starting lineup and had 14 points. … After not playing at all in Game 1, Victor Oladipo had seven points by halftime Wednesday. He finished with 15.
Bucks: Milwaukee had gone 11-8 in regular-season games that Antetokounmpo missed. … Lopez received the NBA Cares Community Assist award for the month of March because of his support of youth literacy. The NBA will donate $10,000 to the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation.
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