The Brooklyn Nets have overcome a lot in this series against the Milwaukee Bucks, more importantly, the injury to James Harden. After just playing a little under a minute, Harden left Game 1 with a hamstring injury and has not been back on the court.
Jeff Green and James Harden have been ruled out for Game 3 on Thursday against Milwaukee, Steve Nash says. Nash said both continue to show progress.
Green will play "sooner rather than later", per Nash.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) June 9, 2021
The Nets did end up winning Game 1 in a 115-107, which did not seem as close as the scoreline showed. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving showed off their scoring ability, accounting for 54 points and 11 assists. The offense ran through them, but with help from role players, like Joe Harris, 19 points, Blake Griffin, 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Mike James, with 12 points, the offense was clicking. On top of that, Bruce Brown and Nicolas Claxton provided a defensive mindset that helped stifle the Bucks offense.
Even though Game 1 was only decided by an eight-point difference, the game was pretty much over going into the fourth quarter. However, with only Giannis Antetokounmpo having success on offense, it was a solid win for the Nets in Game 1.
LETS. GO. NETS. pic.twitter.com/f5YgjeUwCu
— Talkin’ Nets (@TalkinNets) June 6, 2021
Game 2 was a clear and decisive blowout, the Nets winning 125-86, with Bucks having no chance at any point in this game. Durant and Irving combined for 54 points, adding 12 assists, carrying the offense while they let role players fit perfectly into their role. The Nets defense suffocated the Bucks, with no Buck player scoring over 20 points.
This was probably the best game that this Brooklyn Nets team has played all season, and it looked like they had the Bucks on the ropes. The Nets offense was humming with a mix of attacking pick and roll to expose the Bucks drop coverage with Brook Lopez and finding the suitable miss-match options in isolation plays. They also attacked every defense that the Bucks tried to play creatively and attacked a weak defender on the court to get the favorable matchup.
KD and KAI lead a deep, balanced team effort ? pic.twitter.com/8uNnY4VAep
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 8, 2021
In Game 3, the Nets might have played their worst overall basketball, as the Bucks won a must-win game for them 86-83. Antetokounmpo, who had 34 points in Game 1, went off again, but this time Khris Middleton helped out as they combined for 68 points. Jrue Holiday, who did not have a good game, closed out the game with a go-ahead layup in transition with 11 seconds left in the game. Durant and Irving still put up their numbers, scoring 52 points, but were a lot less efficient compared to the first two games, both shooting around 40% from the field. The team also only combined for 15 assists, a combination of going iso heavy down the stretch, along with the team just having an off-shooting night.
The Nets supporting cast did not help out their stars, with Harris going 1-11 from beyond the arc, and outside of Brown’s 16 points, no other player had over 5 points. The Bucks came out aggressive and physical, which was very different from the previous games, and the referees let them be a little more physical, only calling 12 fouls on the Bucks’. The Nets, who are not usually a physical team, were knocked back a peg in the first quarter, which had a ripple effect throughout the game.
The Nets started cold, and the Bucks took advantage and dominated in the first quarter 30-11, but then the Nets fought back with a 31-15 second quarter. After Halftime, the Nets could not get over the hump and get the lead, always getting close but never getting over the edge, and only led in this game for just under two minutes. The Nets collapsed at the end, with Brown ending up taking a last effort shot instead of one of the stars.
This was KD’s last FGA until the final shot. Brutal execution down the stretch https://t.co/moQZzKbjH4
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) June 11, 2021
This game felt very similar to Game 3 against the Boston Celtics. The Nets game off of one of their best performances of the year, only to put a bad first foot forward in the next game. On top of that, the other team’s stars are rising to the immediate moment in a must-win game, like Jayson Tatums 50 points. Nets went on to win the next two games to close out the series against the Celtics and let’s hope Nets will do the same now.
With these similarities, it is essential to note that the Bucks are better than the Celtics. However, the Bucks could easily have lost this game just as they won it. Antetokounmpo did have 34 points but took 31 shots, and the Nets would take that stat line every game, and Middleton, who has been pretty bad all series, just got hot. The Bucks scored the same number of points in the previous game when the Nets beat them by 40. If the Nets provided a little more offense, this game would have been entirely different.
The Nets were cold in Game 3, but if recent history is correct, they won’t stay cold for long, and they have semi figured out how to deal with the Bucks offense. So it will be crucial to see how the Nets come out in Game 4 and get hot to start putting the Bucks to bed.
Photo: NBC Sports/ Getty Images/ Gary Dineen