Bucks earn NBA In-Season Tournament top seed with win over Heat

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Giannis, Middleton and Lillard speak on Bucks’ win over Heat

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard speak on Bucks’ win over Heat and advancing in the NBA In-Season Tournament.

MIAMI –The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Miami Heat, 131-124, at the Kaseya Center, snapping a five-game, regular-season road losing streak in the venue and securing an additional home game next week in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals.

Khris Middleton provided clutch baskets late, giving the Bucks the lead for good in the final two minutes and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard made five straight free throws in the last 78 seconds to clinch it. Antetokounmpo had 33 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the Bucks while Lillard had 32 points and nine assists. Middleton had 17 and Brook Lopez finished with 12.

Bucks win In-Season Tournament East Group BWith the victory, the Bucks went 4-0 in group play and clinched a home game for the quarterfinal “knockout round” next week. They will host the New York Knicks, who beat Charlotte on Tuesday. The Knicks advanced thanks to a point-differential tiebreaker.

Immediately after the win over the Heat, Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin and Antetokounmpo both said they did not want to look past Chicago (Nov. 30) and Atlanta (Dec. 2) but Antetokounmpo added, “we’ve played extremely well in the In-Season Tournament. Hopefully the next game we can still keep this up and get another win and if we win we go to Vegas? Great, man. I haven’t been in Vegas in a long time. So hopefully we can go to Vegas.” Khris Middleton took a step further and added that winning the inaugural NBA Cup would be a feather in the organization’s cap.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra had been an early proponent of the In-Season Tournament and felt that as group play came to a close there had been a different feel to the contests than a “normal” regular season game.

BOX SCORE: Bucks 131, Heat 124

What is the In-Season Tournament? Modeled after various European soccer “cups,” the NBA is introducing round-robin group play featuring all 30 teams to help make regular-season games more important to players and fans.Each game counts toward the regular season standings. The two finalists will end up playing 83 regular season games.The teams that win their groups advance to single-elimination games for the final eight teams, which are the quarterfinals (Dec. 4-5), semifinals and final. The semifinals (Dec. 7) and final (Dec. 9) will be held in Las Vegas. Along with claiming the NBA Cup, each player on the winning team gets a lump sum of $500,000. The second-place team receives $200,000 apiece. Semifinalist players get $100,000, while quarterfinalists get $50,000. Coaches will receive the same.

Pat Connaughton leaves game with ankle sprainWith just under three minutes left in the first half, Bucks guard Pat Connaughton drove to the lane and drew contact. He tossed up a no-look, over-the-head floater as he headed to the floor – which somehow went in – he landed awkwardly on his right foot. He immediately grabbed at it and stayed down for a bit as play continued at the other end. He was able to get up and walk to the corner as the Bucks’ brought the ball back downcourt, but a Heat foul allowed him to get off the court. He headed right to the locker room and was ruled out with a right ankle sprain. In 15 minutes off the bench against the Heat, Connaughton was 3-for-5 from the field for seven points. He also had one rebound and one assist. The 30-year-old guard has been averaging just under 24 minutes per game for the Bucks.

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