Nets finish road trip in Milwaukee, hope for 4-2 record

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Nets aren't as bad as their loss to Portland would indicate. Nor are they as good as their easy win over Denver. But as the "circus road trip" comes to an end on Saturday in Milwaukee, there is some satisfaction that things are going (reasonably) well. A win in Milwaukee and the Nets will close the six-game stretch with a 4-2 record, winning all four games against teams with losing records and losing their two games against teams with winning records.

We'll take it. We're pretty sure they will, too.

A win would also put the Nets within a game of .500 as they return home to play the Bulls on Monday. That's a worthy goal considering how they started out.  Already, they're 17-8 in 2014.  Their .680 winning percentage in the first two months of 2014 is the franchise's best winning percentage in January/February since posting a .704 winning percentage (19 -8 record) in January/February in 2002, when Jason Kidd eventually took them to the NBA Finals.

Kidd told Mike Lupica Friday he thinks this year's club can do at least as well.

"We feel that we can compete with the top teams in the East [in the playoffs]," he said on ESPN Radio. "If healthy, and if the ball bounces our way, hopefully we can be the last team standing."

Milwaukee on the other hand has the worst record in the NBA and would hold the No. 1 overall pick in the loaded 2014 Draft if the season ended today.  With four games separating them from the next worst record, the Bucks increasingly seem a lock for the best shot at Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins.

They have gotten better of late, but really not by much. They beat Philadelphia, the league's next worst team, by 20 and lost by only five to the Pacers. Over the last 10, they're 3-7, which sounds bad until you realize before that, they were 8-39.

The season so far

What's the story here? The numbers will help tell the tale:

Metric

Brooklyn

Milwaukee

Record

27-29 11-46

Pace

94.1 94.4

Offensive Efficiency

102.8 97.6

Defensive Efficiency

104.7 106.8

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.1 26.2

Turnover rate

15.2 15.5

Assist rate

16.6 16.4

Rebound rate

47.5 48.0

Free throw rate

23.4 18.0

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.1 47.1

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 51.2

The Nets are healthy other than Brook Lopez but Kevin Garnett has back spasms and will not play. Everyone else is expected to play Saturday.  For the Bucks, Carlos Delfino, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh are all out and Caron Butler was waived and bought out Friday.  He's headed to Oklahoma City, according to reports. That will leave Milwaukee with only 11 healthy bodies.

The Bucks start Khris Middleton, Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Knight and rookie Nate Wolters, not a particularly awesome unit. O.J. Mayo, who's as usual up and down, will come off the bench.  He hit seven three-pointers against the 76ers on Monday. Another rookie, the exciting Giannis Antetokounmpo, comes off the bench. There's not real go-to guy. Seven Bucks players scored in double digits at Philadelphia on Monday, including Khris Middleton with 15 points. Middleton has the second-most 10-point games on the Bucks this season with 33.

Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo

This one is easy. Antetokounmpo (normal spelling and pronunced ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh) is the NBA's youngest player, so young he is still growing. He was listed at 6'9" in bare feet back when he was drafted.  Last anyone checked, back in December, he was 6'10 1/4".  And has been reported, doctors have informed Antetokounmpo and Bucks officials that the Greek Freak's growth plate is still open and he’ll likely become a 7-footer.

He's not playing much, about 24 minutes per game, but his performance against the Knicks showed just what he can do. He scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, grabbed three boards and handed out two assists from the small forward position.  It's not just his height. Antetokounmpo has a wingspan of 7'3" and hands that curl the basketball like it is an orange.

Here's a sampling of what he did to the Knicks

From the Vault

The last time the Bucks were contenders, more than a decade ago,  they featured a Big Three of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell.

.More reading: Brew Hoop

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