As Kevin Durant willed the Nets into the lead in the fourth quarter, hitting from inside and outside, Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have as many answers.
A terrific game by the Greek Freak was spoiled by a final quarter not befitting of a player named All-NBA first team earlier in the night.
In the final minute, trailing 109-107, Milwaukee’s Kris Middleton drove and fed Antetokounmpo underneath. He fumbled the ball, the Nets recovered and that was about it.
Durant, who didn’t play enough games this season to get any All-NBA honors, completely overshadowed Antetokounmpo — who finished with 34 points but just seven in the final period. He still made 14 of 22 shots but also committed four turnovers. He was really good — just not the masterpiece KD painted.
The Greek Freak also didn’t come through from the free-throw line down the stretch — which was no surprise considering how he’s been going there. Twice, he was at the line for two shots and sank one of two each time.
Trailing 106-104 and 1:14 left, Antetokounmpo went to the line with the Barclays Center crowd at a fever pitch. He bounced the first free throw off the front rim and side rim. He made the next but Durant came down and drilled a 3-pointer for major breathing room.
“Special performance, credit to him,’’ Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Nets were scrambling back in the third quarter, cutting what was once a 17-point deficit down to seven.
But Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to let it all slip away then. Though his 3-point shooting has been a wreck in this playoffs, the Greek Freak quieted the Barclays Center din by draining a rare 3-pointer.
One possession later, Antetokounmpo racked up a conventional three-point play, torpedoing through the lane, past Blake Griffin for a layup while drawing the foul. Despite his free-throw shooting also in the tank, he steadied and made the free throw to put the Bucks back up by 10 points.
He had 26 points on 11 of 16 shooting after three quarters, but he couldn’t maintain it. It was still tons better than the last time he was on the Barclays court, when Antetokounmpo was held to just 18 points.
Feasting in the paint while struggling from outside, Nets coach Steve Nash said before the game they still needed to do better on him.
“He’s won back-to-back MVPs,’’ Nash said. “He scores the ball. It’s important for us to take away some stuff from his comfort zone. Be diligent with the game plan, making extra effort, being organized, getting back to our spots early and not allowing him some freebies. Make him earn everything. Very simple fundamental. We have our principles and schemes.
He put up 17 points in the first half, going 8 of 11 from the field, mostly on drives into the paint. He took just two 3-point shots, making one.
On one possession, Antetokounmpo was wide open from 3 but decided to give a handoff to Bryan Forbes, who drilled the 3 with help of the screen. But there weren’t enough big plays from him in the final period.