Giannis, Dame 'very close' as Bucks force Game 6



MILWAUKEE — As the final seconds ticked off the clock of an emphatic 115-92 Milwaukee Bucks victory in Game 5 to avoid elimination, Malik Beasley threw his hands in the air and welcomed the love from the crowd. Patrick Beverley yelled along with fans in the front row near the Bucks bench. Khris Middleton even acknowledged the cheers as he walked up the floor to come out of the game.

A sold-out crowd, emboldened by the unlikely performance they had witnessed, chanted “Bucks in seven.”

The Bucks won Tuesday night with both of their two top scorers, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, out of the lineup, making them the first team in NBA history to win a playoff game while missing their top two scorers from the regular season.

Middleton and Bobby Portis led all scorers with 29 points each and, along with Beverley, became the first trio in Bucks history to all post a double-double since 1981, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“We have to find a way to win, whatever it takes,” Middleton said. “We’re still confident. Our backs were up against the wall tonight, we had a great home crowd that got us going. So we’re going to have to find a way. That’s the only way to put it, find a way to get this next one and force a Game 7.”

The Pacers still lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday night in Indianapolis.

By extending the series, the Bucks have given Antetokounmpo and Lillard a chance to play in the next game. Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers said both players are scheduled to work out on the court during the off day Wednesday.

“I think they’re very, very, very close,” Rivers said.

Lillard, who has missed the past two games with an Achilles injury, shed the walking boot he was wearing over the weekend. He did some shooting on the court before Tuesday’s game, but Wednesday will be his first complete workout since he reaggravated the injury in Game 4, an issue he had been dealing with in the final weeks of the regular season.

Antetokounmpo did not do much on the court Tuesday, according to Rivers. But on Sunday he ran on the court for the first time since he strained his left calf three weeks ago. He has not played since April 9.

Rivers’ message to his players was simple: Focus on winning one home game, Game 5, and get the series back to Indiana. And he knew from what he called a “very lively” film session heading into the game that his players had not given up on a series comeback yet.

“You could feel the energy in our film and in our walk-through,” Rivers said. “We’re coming to play and win tonight. You can feel it in the preparation, that was not a team walking through a walk-through, thinking this was it. That’s a team thinking they can win.”

The day also began with Portis addressing the team and apologizing for getting ejected in the first quarter of Game 4 after a scuffle with Andrew Nembhard, making the task of winning even more difficult for a short-handed team.

“I’m an emotional player, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I give my all every night and take pride of being available for my team,” Portis said Tuesday night. “Game 4, little scuffle, maybe crossed the line. I let my team down by getting ejected and not being available for my team. I owed them an apology for sure.”

His Bucks teammates accepted his apology and Middleton reiterated they wanted Portis to play with that same fire, as long as he harnesses it. Just like he did Tuesday night, igniting the Milwaukee crowd and joining the celebration with his teammates.

“We’re down 3-1, we’re at home, we’re down a couple players, none of that matters,” Portis said. “The biggest thing, going out there and playing with swag, having fun, enjoying the game but still locking in on a game plan. We enjoyed the game tonight.”



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