The Nets and Bucks were two of the best and most consistent teams in the NBA this season, thanks to All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving; yet for an inexplicable reason, each of the first three games in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup has been completely different from the others.
- Check out what we had to say in our Bucks vs Nets Game 3 Preview
In Game One, both teams shot a decent percentage from the field as the Nets ended up winning by eight points. James Harden was lost to a nagging hamstring injury in the first minute of action, leaving Durant and Irving to carry the load. The pair lived up to the challenge, scoring 54 points combined, while 19 points from Joe Harris and 18 from Blake Griffin gave Brooklyn the necessary boost to overcome Milwaukee. The “Greek Freak” recorded 34 points and 11 rebounds but was let down by a 4-25 three-point performance from his supporting cast.
Middleton was also off the mark in the first matchup, scoring a lowly 13 points on 6-23 shooting. Jrue Holiday also struggled to make shots consistently, going 7-19 from the field. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks took the loss and had their eyes set ahead to Game Two.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Game Two went as poorly as it possibly could have as Brooklyn’s shooters scorched the net 21 times on 42 long-range attempts, setting a franchise playoff record. Durant and Irving improved their mark to 54 combined points and the Nets’ bench players made eight three-pointers. Brooklyn’s relentless offensive attack demoralized the Bucks and soon rendered them helpless as the score continued to grow out of reach, peaking at a 49-point Brooklyn lead.
Antetokounmpo was held to 18 points and 11 rebounds while Middleton’s 17 and Holiday’s 13 were nowhere near the amount needed to keep the game within reach. The Bucks were 8-27 from beyond the arc and had a playoff-low 14 assists along with 16 turnovers.
Game Three was the first back in Wisconsin, and although Durant and Irving combined for their third-straight performance with at least 50 combined points, the Bucks snuck away with an 86-83 victory. This was the fewest points that Brooklyn had scored and the second-fewest they had allowed all season, and it was a season-low in both categories for Milwaukee.
Nets and Bucks | A Strange Story
The Bucks’ horrendous distance shooting continued and is now at 22.7% for the series, though Middleton and Antetokounmpo finally awoke from their trance and scored 35 and 33 points respectively. The duo set a playoff record by scoring 79.1% of the team’s points, the highest mark for two players in one contest. Durant and Irving’s customary 50-plus total with 52, but 50 shots to do so.
Predicting the outcome of Game Four is anybody’s guess at this point: the Nets lost primarily because of the fall-off in their outside shooting (8-32 3PT), yet the same could be said for a Milwaukee team that is shooting 16.2% worse from outside than it did in the regular season.
With the balance of power in the series hanging in the balance, the Game Four winner could be the team that can re-find its touch from the perimeter.
The Nets are listed as -1.5 (-108) favorites on the road, and the Bucks +1.5 (-112) at home. The moneyline is -120 for Brooklyn and +108 for Milwaukee, and the over/under is 229 (-110). Based on history, Brooklyn would be the safer pick straight up, and the “under” seems more likely to hit. The Bucks simply cannot duplicate their regular-season performances when it matters, and the Nets have guys that can get it done when it counts.
Sunday’s bout between Brooklyn and Milwaukee will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET and has the potential to form different narratives such as Giannis’ postseason failures or Durant needing Steph Curry, depending on who comes out on top. If the Bucks fall behind 3-1, the series will be over for all intents and purposes, whereas a victory will knot the teams at two apiece and will set up a thrilling end to the heavyweight bout.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.