LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Milwaukee Bucks staved off elimination on Sunday, beating the Miami Heat 118-115 in overtime despite losing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to a right ankle sprain in the second quarter.
After being fouled by Heat forward Andre Iguodala on a drive into the paint at the 10:18 mark of the second quarter of Game 4 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series, Antetokounmpo went down in a heap, yelling out in pain and clutching at his right ankle. He had to be helped off the court but later walked back on to split a pair of free throws.
Antetokounmpo then immediately checked out of the game and walked under his own power to Milwaukee’s locker room. He wouldn’t be seen again, as the Bucks ruled out their superstar forward at halftime, when they were clinging to a 50-48 lead.
“He’ll get treatment through the night, and we’ll just see how he does in the next 24 (to) 48 hours,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after the game.
In an inspired effort led by Khris Middleton, the Bucks managed to hold on after losing the reigning MVP to avoid a 4-0 sweep. Middleton’s 21 points in the third quarter were the most by a Bucks player in any quarter of a playoff game since Tim Thomas’ 19 in 1996-97. He ended with 36 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds in 48 minutes — including a clutch 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in overtime against a Miami double-team.
“We know he was laying it out on the line out there for us,” Middleton said. “His ankle was already in bad shape, and he still went out there in the first quarter in the minutes that, in the first and second quarter, however long he was out there, he gave it his all, and as a team you couldn’t do nothing but respect your teammate for giving his all out there. So, we had to have his back tonight, and hopefully we’ll have him back again for the next game, but if not, we still have to play as hard as we can. We gotta fight every night to keep on playing.”
Antetokounmpo was a game-time decision for Game 4 after initially injuring his right ankle during the first half of Game 3 on Friday night. He worked out and appeared to be moving without any noticeable limp on Sunday before starting the game.
He was off to a terrific start, too, scoring 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with four rebounds, a steal and a block in 11 minutes before the injury.
“You feel for Giannis,” Budenholzer said. “I hope it’s not lost what he did in those first 10 or 12 minutes on an ankle that is not fully 100 percent. He was phenomenal at the start of the game, and he was a huge boost. I think they threw a big punch early, and Giannis was able to keep us afloat.”
Middleton then picked up the slack. So did Eric Bledsoe, who contributed 14 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as the Bucks avoided being swept. Brook Lopez scored 14 points with five rebounds, and Hill added 12 points with five rebounds off the bench.
“They’re a great disciplined team. No matter if we go up or down, they’re gonna play the same either way. What we gotta do is weather the storm,” Bledsoe said. “We know their run is gonna come. It’s all about how we’re gonna bounce back from it and stay poised. I thought we did a great job of not getting too down when they did go on their run. We stayed in attack mode and got to the rim.”
As Bucks players entered the locker room, Antetokounmpo was there to congratulate them on the latest victory, but it’s still unclear if he’ll be able to return for Game 5 on Tuesday.
The Bucks are the first team to win in overtime when facing elimination since the Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.