NEW YORK — In the middle of the fourth quarter of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 120-119 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, an exciting game took a frightening turn when Khris Middleton fouled Bruce Brown on a breakaway dunk. Middleton was assessed a flagrant-2 foul and ejected.
It happened after Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to drop off a pass to Jrue Holiday and Brown stole it, then took off the other way. Brown slowed down, Middleton caught up and Middleton fouled Brown in mid-air. Brown crashed to the ground in dangerous fashion, and, after a replay review, it was ruled a flagrant-2.
“I thought the Middleton play was risky,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “A guy has left his feet and you’re coming behind; if you grab the arm, that’s a very dangerous play. Unfortunate. I don’t think Khris is a dirty player at all, but that is a dangerous play.”
Brown said he saw Middleton behind him before he took off.
“I didn’t think he was gonna grab me out the air,” Brown said,” but it’s cool. It was just a hard foul. I’m good.”
After the foul, Brown remained in the game. He said that he feels “fine” and “just bruised a bone in my wrist.” Asked if it was a basketball play, Brown said, “It’s a hard foul. He wasn’t trying to — I mean, it’s an open dunk. I mean, I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t care. It’s fine.”
Kevin Durant was less diplomatic when it came to the foul that caused his own uncomfortable landing. Late in overtime, the Bucks’ Wesley Matthews fouled Durant on a corner 3, contesting the shot from the side and falling into Durant’s leg. Durant was awarded three free throws, but he said it wasn’t called a flagrant foul because of a technicality: Durant had just landed, so Matthews was not invading his landing space.
“We all thought that was reckless,” Durant said. “Right? But I think technically, like, I have to be in the air and if come down on his foot, then that’s the flagrant. But he can run into my leg, though. A split second before, you know what I mean, as I was coming down, I might have hit the floor — and then as soon as I hit the floor, here he comes running at my leg. You know? But it wasn’t a contest. I thought it was supposed to be a flagrant, but technically I didn’t make the correct play to get a flagrant. I was supposed to still be in the air while he’s underneath me.”
Durant continued: “I’m hurting. That’s two games in a row a player has walked up underneath me when I’m trying to make a basketball play. So my ankle’s hurt.”
He clarified that he does not expect to miss any time because of the sore ankle. “It’s just a little sore, you know how that go,” he said. Durant smiled at a reporter before adding, “Or do you?”
As for the “two games in a row” part, Durant could have been referring to any or all of these plays against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday:
Kyrie Irving objected to Milwaukee’s style more generally.
“They were playing pretty physical,” Irving said. “I think they were a little reckless at times, just on … a few of their fouls.”
Irving added, “That’s who they are.” He declined, however, to discuss individual plays.
“I’ll leave it to people who are observing the game, but it was just recklessness,” Irving said. “Just being in the way at times when it’s just an easy play to avoid.”
Irving injured his ankle in Game 4 of last year’s second-round series against the Bucks when he landed on Antetokounmpo’s foot. On Jan. 17, after a game in Cleveland, Irving brought up that play unprompted, saying, “I’m going up for a shot, and Giannis comers over, and his foot just happens to be in the way.”