After trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks came back to beat Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, 106-105, in a thrilling nationally televised contest on Friday at Dallas. Both superstars were spectacular, as Doncic finished with 33 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, and Antetokounmpo scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half to power Milwaukee's comeback effort.
The game was decided, however, with Antetokounmpo on the bench. With 2:55 remaining in the game, the two-time MVP reached out to contest a 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. but made contact with him after the release and was whistled for his sixth foul. The Bucks challenged the ruling, but it was ultimately upheld, sending the Greek Freak to the sideline for the remainder of the game.
In what Antetokounmpo later called repayment from the "basketball gods," Hardaway missed all three free throws, which would prove to be a troublesome, critical trend for the Mavericks down the stretch.
With just under 30 seconds left, Doncic cooked Lopez and finished with a pretty one-handed lay-in to give Dallas a one-point lead.
Khris Middleton missed a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, forcing the Bucks into foul mode. Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith was the lucky recipient, and he strolled to the line with a chance to put Dallas up by three. Instead he missed both free throws -- Dallas clanked eight free throws in the fourth quarter, and 14 for the game -- giving Milwaukee the opportunity to take the lead.
"In a one-point ball game, the small things matter," Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said after the game. "We were getting to the line. We just didn't make them, and especially there late. We gotta step up. We practice free throws all the time, and they're a part of the game. It's just unfortunate that we didn't make them at the right time."
The missed freebies left the door open for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to work his magic, and he drew up a beautiful inbounds lob play for Lopez. Middleton set a great screen to free up Lopez, and the Mavericks were so concerned with the perimeter that they left the 7-footer with a free run to the rim. Hill put the pass right on target, and Lopez converted what would end up being the game-winner.
The Mavs had one final chance, but Doncic's long 3-pointer hit nothing but backboard and Milwaukee headed to the visiting locker room victorious. Someone had to lose, but it was one of the most entertaining games of the year thanks to the tremendous individual performances from Doncic and Antetokounmpo, and late heroics from the Bucks' role players.
"It's great playing basketball, great playing on the biggest stage in the world. It's great playing against the best players in the world," Antetokounmpo said after the game. "At the end of the day, we play this game to enjoy this game and play this game to win. And just being out there, you can never take it for granted."