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Bucks get clutch buckets in OT, beat Nets in instant classic Game 7 despite Durant’s 49

By the end, with just a couple of minutes left in overtime, these Eastern Conference heavyweight contenders looked like two heavyweight boxers in the 12th round of a title fight — exhausted, leaning on each other, slow to move but summoning every bit of energy they have to step back and throw a haymaker, trying to end it.

Kevin Durant thought he landed one at the end of regulation —a ridiculous two-pointer that forced overtime, but a shot he thought at first won the game.

In OT, Durant had nothing left in the tank, went 0-of-6, and airballed a late shot to try and force a second overtime. He was completely spent, and it’s hard to blame him: 48 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and carrying the offensive load for a Brooklyn team where one of the other big three was hobbling around the court at half speed, and the other was in street clothes on the bench.

On the other end, Giannis Antetokounmpo had the energy for an overtime bucket, but it was Khris Middleton — who had been ice cold much of the night — who had the energy for the game-winner that put Milwaukee ahead for good.

In the end, the Bucks had just enough left to defeat the Nets 115-111 in overtime of an instant classic. Milwaukee advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, which will begin Wednesday against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Brooklyn will head into an offseason where they work to get healthy, look for more depth to put around their three stars, and prepare for a campaign where they will have a target on their backs as the likely title favorites.

But the Nets are not getting a ring this year.

What made this game a classic was the biggest stars stepped up. Durant had 48, but Giannis Antetokounmpo had 40 points on 15-of-24 shooting, he attacked the paint, and he got 13 rebounds.

There were only two other Game 7s where two players scored 38+ points: Sam Jones and Oscar Robertson in 1963, and LeBron James and Paul Pierce in 2008 (stat via Tim Reynolds of the AP). Now Durant and Antetokounmpo join the club.

Like most Game 7s, this was not always a thing of beauty — the pressure of the moment weighs on guys and shots tend to fall short.

That was true of this game as well. Jrue Holiday was 2-of-16 shooting with four points through three quarters. But the fourth quarter showed why the Bucks gave up so much to get the man this offseason: 3-of-5 shooting overall, 2-of-3 from 3, nine points, plus some key defensive stops.

James Harden did what he could for the Nets, drawing fouls (10-of-10 from the stripe) on his way to 22 points, but he was 2-of-12 from three. Blake Griffin added 17 points, and Bruce Brown brought energy and made key plays, shooting 7-of-9 to get 14 points.

In the end, it just wasn’t enough, and the Milwaukee Bucks feel like they got a win that got them over the hump… even if there is another hump in front of them starting Wednesday.