One can simply name the Milwaukee Bucks’ efficiency towards the Nets on Monday night time a humiliation.
It was, in any case, a 39-point drubbing, and gave the Nets a commanding 2-0 lead of their Jap Convention semifinal sequence. The 125-86 win was the biggest within the Nets’ playoff historical past, and their largest margin of victory all season.
Kyrie Irving hit a 3-pointer to open the game. Quickly, the Nets’ lead was 10 factors. By the top of the primary quarter, it was 17. After which the floodgates opened. At one level, the lead grew to 49.
The Bucks had no solutions. Their followers couldn’t even blame the referees for letting the sport get out of hand: The Nets shot only seven free throws. They merely scored each time they wished.
“We didn’t play very properly general,” Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks coach, mentioned in a stone-faced understatement. “First quarter. The entire sport. Yeah, so, I believe we’ve acquired to play higher from begin to finish.”
Holding the rating nearer may need been merely a beauty gesture, although. The Nets are the superior crew, each in expertise and in execution. And so they have dominated each video games of this sequence whereas lacking James Harden, the most effective offensive gamers within the league.
Not like most groups the Nets play, the Bucks have a counterpoint for Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden: a dominant former most useful participant of their very own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo performed properly within the opening sport of this sequence, scoring 34 factors on 24 shots and grabbing 11 rebounds. The issue for Budenholzer and his crew is that the Nets simply brushed it off. It’s not a fantastic signal when a crew’s star performs like a star, when the opposing crew loses one in every of theirs to damage, and the video games are nonetheless not aggressive.
The Bucks have been vexed by Durant specifically, their incapacity to cease him traced to at least one essential benefit: Durant has no weak spots as an offensive participant. Defenders can’t drive him left or proper for a extra advantageous place as a result of he can rating from wherever on the ground.
P.J. Tucker is stronger than Durant. Antetokounmpo is perhaps taller. Jrue Vacation is faster. All three are glorious defensively, and all three have taken their turns attempting to protect him. Durant had counters for all of them. When he’s single-covered, he simply acquired round larger defenders along with his distinctive ball dealing with. Towards smaller ones, he merely shot over them. When the Bucks double-teamed him, Durant slipped passes to teammates like Joe Harris or Irving.
On Monday, Durant completed with 32 factors and 6 assists in 33 minutes. He was mesmerizing. Unguardable.
All just isn’t misplaced for the Bucks. If there’s a method for them to maintain these video games shut, it may very well be by hitting their 3’s.
The Bucks have been dismal from deep up to now, capturing 24.5 p.c mixed within the first two video games of the sequence — virtually 15 factors decrease than their regular-season common.
If Milwaukee can discover one thing approximating its regular-season kind, it is going to open up the paint for Antetokounmpo. This may occasionally require extra minutes for Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes, bench gamers who can shoot, and beginning Antetokounmpo at heart, to permit for extra perimeter quickness.
And the Bucks can take some classes from the Nets’ solely postseason loss up to now: Sport 3 of their first-round sequence towards the Boston Celtics. The overmatched Celtics stole a win that night time, at the same time as Durant and Harden had sturdy video games, as a result of they shot 16 of 39 (41 p.c) from behind the arc, which allowed them to maintain tempo late within the sport.
In fact, Jayson Tatum, the Celtics star, helped fairly a bit by scoring 50 points. Milwaukee goes to wish nights like that from Antetokounmpo, who had issue stepping into an offensive rhythm on Monday. The Bucks are usually not going to win many video games with Antetokounmpo, their finest participant, capturing solely 15 occasions.
“I’ve acquired to be extra aggressive and get to my spots extra,” Antetokounmpo acknowledged after the sport. “That’s just about it.”
Not fairly. It’s not essentially solely a query of aggression. There have been far too many possessions Monday on which Antetokounmpo put his head down and tried to drive right into a wall of defenders. Aggression with no Plan B results in 39-point losses. Antetokounmpo must get the ball in numerous spots and never simply convey it up because the crew’s de facto level guard.
However all of the changes on this planet received’t shut the expertise hole between the 2 groups. It’s not simply that Durant and Irving are outclassing the Bucks’ high gamers. It’s that the remainder of the Nets roster — even function gamers like Bruce Brown and Mike James — are taking part in a few of their finest basketball of their season on the proper time. And to make issues worse for Milwaukee, the Nets may get the injured Harden and Jeff Inexperienced again for Sport 3.
In need of the Nets forgetting what time that sport is on Thursday, the Bucks may very well be in for extra of the identical.