Antetokounmpo scores 49 points as Bucks beat Nets 117-114

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Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots past Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE – Giannis Antetokounmpo played how he wants to play, and it was enough to overcome a terrific effort by Kevin Durant.

Antetokounmpo scored 49 points and Khris Middleton had 26 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 117-114 victory over Durant and the Nets on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo also had eight rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. The two-time reigning NBA MVP went 21 for 36 from the field, including a 4-for-8 performance from 3-point range.

“I’ve been working on a jump shot my whole life,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know eventually one day it’s all going to click.

“Tonight that picture I created, that’s who I want to be moving forward. It doesn’t matter if I score 49 points. I don’t care about that. What I care about is how I slowed down, how I was able to find my teammates. How if I missed one, missed a second one, missed a third one and still be able to come down and shoot another one. This is what I believe I can be.”

The Bucks (40-24) won for the third time in four games to pull within 2 1/2 games of the Nets (43-22) in the three-way battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia is on top at 42-21 heading into its matchup with San Antonio on Sunday night.

Milwaukee hosts Brooklyn again on Tuesday night.

“Every day you wake up is about your craft,” Durant said. “We’ve just got to stay locked in mentally to what we’re trying to do as a group.”