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Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday help Bucks push Heat to brink of elimination

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) looks for a path around Miami guard Goran Dragic during the Bucks Game 3 victory Thursday night.
Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) looks for a path around Miami guard Goran Dragic during the Bucks Game 3 victory Thursday night.Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

Khris Middleton scored 22 points, Jrue Holiday added 19 points and 12 assists, and the Milwaukee Bucks moved a win from a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals after easing past the Heat,113-84, in Miami, on Thursday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Bucks. They lead the first-round series 3-0 and will try for a sweep of the reigning East champions on Saturday.

The Bucks won Game 2 by 34 points and made Game 3 just as decisive, leading by as many as 32. Brook Lopez scored 13 points, while Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis each had 11 for Milwaukee.

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Jimmy Butler scored 19 points and Bam Adebayo had 17 for Miami. Nemanja Bjelica — little-used by Miami this season, then called upon Thursday out of desperation for any sort of outside shooting — scored 14 points.

Milwaukee outrebounded Miami 56-41, held the Heat to 38% shooting and became the first team to top Miami by at least 29 points twice in the same playoff series.

And that’s after the Bucks beat Miami by 47, in Miami, back in December.

The biggest crowd of the season, by far — the Heat were expecting 17,000 in a building that in normal times called 19,600 a sellout — showed up.

The Heat managed only 8 points in the game’s first nine minutes, the fewest they managed in such a game-opening span since last August and the fewest to open a game on their home floor since Nov. 14, 2018.

It was 26-14 Milwaukee after one quarter, then the lead swelled to as much as 19 — 44-25 late in the second before got to 49-36 at the half. That matched the fewest points allowed by the Bucks in a first half in more than three years.

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And in the third, whenever Miami seemed like it could get close Milwaukee had a rebuttal.

Milwaukee's Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis celebrate during the second half of Thursday's contest.
Milwaukee's Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis celebrate during the second half of Thursday's contest.Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

Butler scored to get Miami within 14; Forbes followed with a 3-pointer. Adebayo had a 3-point play to make it 14 again; Antetokounmpo answered with a jumper. Tyler Herro hit a 3-pointer to get Miami within 14 a third time; the Bucks scored the next 5 points.

Knicks, 76ers each ban fan for behavior

The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers each banned a fan and issued apologies Thursday for actions directed at opposing players during playoff games, and the NBA said that rules surrounding fan behavior will be “vigorously enforced” going forward.

The Knicks said they banned a fan from Madison Square Garden for spitting on Atlanta guard Trae Young, and the 76ers banned the fan who threw popcorn on Washington guard Russell Westbrook. Both incidents occurred Wednesday night.

“We’re just living in a society where people don’t have respect anymore,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Thursday. “In no way should that be allowed, or should that happen, at a sporting event or really any event. ... I think New York did what it should have done in that situation. It’s uncalled for.”

The 76ers went even further than the Knicks could, since the fan involved in the Westbrook incident was a season ticket holder. Those tickets have been revoked, and he was also banned from all events at their arena.

Neither the Knicks nor the 76ers released the names of the fans who were involved. The Knicks said they forwarded information to authorities.

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“We investigated the matter and determined that this patron, who is not a season ticket holder, did indeed spit on Trae Young, and for that reason, he is now banned from The Garden indefinitely,” the Knicks said. “We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior.”

Atlanta's Trae Young had an eventful two games against the Knicks in New York this week.
Atlanta's Trae Young had an eventful two games against the Knicks in New York this week.Elsa/Associated Press

Video showed that someone spit on Young while he was preparing to inbound the basketball in the fourth quarter of New York’s 101-92 win over Atlanta at Madison Square Garden. Young did not mention it in his postgame interviews and McMillan said he was unaware of the incident until Thursday morning.

Young was the subject of profane chants from some fans in that arena throughout the first two games of the series; the Hawks’ guard taunted them right back after his shot with less than a second left gave Atlanta a win in Game 1.

Westbrook was leaving the Wizards’ 120-95 defeat in Philadelphia with an ankle injury when someone sitting over the tunnel that leads from the floor threw the popcorn on him.

“We apologize to Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards for being subjected to this type of unacceptable and disrespectful behavior,” the 76ers said in a statement announcing the ban. “There is no place for it in our sport or arena.”

The NBA said Thursday that its rules on fan behavior will be “vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans,” the NBA said Thursday.

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NBA buildings are welcoming their largest crowds of the season for the playoffs, after a regular season where attendance was severely limited because of policies put in place to keep players and others safe during the pandemic.

Mitchell returns in style

Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points in his much-anticipated return from a sprained ankle and the Utah Jazz overcame Ja Morant’s franchise-record 47 points in a 141-129 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, tying the first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Mitchell, who was limited to 26 minutes, made five 3-pointers. Rudy Gobert had 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks for the Jazz.

Mike Conley had 20 points and a career-best 15 assists, and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points to help the Jazz knot the series.

Morant broke Conley’s Memphis playoff scoring record, and became the first player to score as many as 71 points in his first two career playoff games since the NBL merged with the BAA to create the NBA before the 1949-50 season.

Dillon Brooks, who scored 23 points, had a dunk that got the Grizzlies within 121-112 with 7:06 to play, but Memphis couldn’t stop Utah’s multifaceted attack.

Timberwolves staying put?

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor expressed confidence that the franchise will remain in Minnesota after it is sold, responding to a federal lawsuit against him by one of his investors alleging breach of contract.

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Taylor, who also owns the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, recently finalized an agreement to sell the basketball clubs to e-commerce mogul Marc Lore and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez for $1.5 billion. The deal would unfold incrementally, beginning this year with a 20% purchase of Taylor’s stake. Lore and Rodriguez would be on track to become majority owners for the 2023-24 seasons.

Taylor issued a statement through the team acknowledging the litigation from Meyer Orbach, a New Jersey real estate magnate whose ownership stake in the basketball clubs is about 17%.

The 80-year-old Taylor purchased the Timberwolves in 1994 for $88 million to keep them from moving to New Orleans. He told reporters when the negotiations with Lore and Rodriguez began that the franchise remaining in Minnesota was a condition of the sale.