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Nets try to bounce back and take 3-1 lead vs. Bucks

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks

It would’ve been an all time great comeback, but ah well. The Brooklyn Nets got off to a ghastly start, turned it around, fought back, had a chance to win it late, but fell a wee bit short on Thursday night as the Milwaukee Bucks won the game and kept their chances alive. The series is now 2-1 in favor of the Nets.

Read about the game from the Bucks perspective here.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN on radio. YES Network on pre and post. Us on Clubhouse! Day game so we’re getting started after 3 p.m.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Jeff Green has been making gains and has been upgraded to questionable. James Harden is out.

Donte DiVincenzo is out.

The game

Bruce Brown was one minute away from the best game of his professional life. Brown was the spark that helped the Nets get back into the game in the second quarter as his floaters off pick and rolls, energy in hounding the Bucks, and great interior work threw the Bucks off completely. The final sequence was a bit janky, but that shouldn’t take away from what was a spirited game for him. It looked like he tweaked his groin late, but he said he’s good, so he’s good.

The Nets picked on Brook Lopez in the p&r, but our old friend still managed to make life tough on his former team on the inside with six blocks in 35 minutes. He’s a great rim deterrent and whenever he’s by the basket, it’s tough to finish over and around him. It doesn’t look like the Bucks will deviate too much from their drop strategy on pick and rolls, so the Nets will have their fair share of midrange jumpers if they want them.

Interestingly, Brooklyn hasn’t gotten to the free throw line very often this series. In the three games, Milwaukee has out-attempted them at the line 47 to 24. During the regular season, Brooklyn was eighth in free throw rate. However, the Bucks were tops in opponents free throw rate as they barely allowed opponents to get to the line. When your shots aren’t falling, free points at the line help keep things going and with the Nets being the best free throw shooting team in the playoffs, they’re automatic at the line. We’ll see if Brooklyn can get to the rim and draw some more contact today.

For years now, everyone’s been hooting and hollering about how there’s too much scoring in the NBA, we don’t get defensive slugfests, blah blah blah. Now that we got a low scoring, high intensity playoff battle, some of y’all STILL aren’t happy! Make up your minds, people!!

Jrue Holiday saved the day with a game winning layup at the end for the Bucks. It was a positive ending to what had been another shaky night for the former All Star. There were so many times when the Bucks offense was disjointed as they were settling for rushed clocks early in the clock, and Holiday was just as guilty of that as his teammates.

It’s not often Kyrie Irving doesn’t make much of an impact offensively in the fourth quarter, but that’s what happened last game. He opened the scoring for the Nets in the fourth, but missed his last three shots and he rightfully deferred to the hot hand of Kevin Durant. A cleaner inbounds on the second to last possession might have wound up in his hands for a good shot, but it wasn’t meant to be. For what it’s worth, Irving took a lot of the heat off of Brown and bigged up his teammate for his contributions and noted that everyone could’ve been better. That’s what your leaders should do. Irving played 45 high pressure minutes, and having two more days off will do him some good. Another shot creator on the court with Irving would probably help him out and give him a little more room to get jiggy on offense. His defense has been here so look for that to continue.

Of Joe Harris’ 11 field goal attempts, damn near all of them were open to wide open. Surprisingly, he only made one shot in his 36 minutes of game time. Similar to how Irving had a bunch of makeable shots rim out in G1, Harris had the same bit of bad luck afflict him this time around. Harris is too good of a shooter to miss clean looks like that again and I think the Nets will live with the shots he got. Just have to knock them down this time.

Khris Middleton as lead option late? It works. Middleton carried the offense late and hit jumper after jumper late to help push the Bucks to the W. He was on fire to start the game off as he and Giannis scored all of the team’s first quarter points. His three baskets late helped wash away what was shaping up to be another disastrous half as he was 5-13 from the field post intermission. A lot of his shots came in isolation and the Bucks just aren’t built to run offense like that time after time.

Player to watch: Giannis Antetokuonmpo

I never thought I’d say this, but a 33 points, 14 rebound game from the former MVP was kinda... eh? Now granted, Giannis was a lot more assertive in getting to the basket as the majority of his shot attempts were close to the basket. He placed his imprint on the game early as his rim runs had the Milwaukee crowd on their feet. Now here comes the eh part. For his career, he’s a 28.7 percent shooter from three point. In the playoffs, he’s shooting 12.5 (no, that’s not a typo) from deep. And yet, he took EIGHT threes on Thursday, only making one. They don’t count as turnovers in the stat sheet, but they have the same as effect as a turnover. It’s just not the best use of his talent and every time he settles for those shots, it’s a win for the Nets defense.

Oh yeah, he also went 4-9 from the free throw line, which included an airball and his second 10 second violation of the playoffs. I was telling someone this during the game, but for a former Defensive Player of the Year and two time MVP, it’s hard to make it to the top of the mountain when you can’t trust him to make free throws late or give him the opportunity to guard the opponent’s best player in crunch time. Risky, risky business.

Kevin Durant almost pulled this one out late for the Nets. KD was off all first half, but he turned it up in the second as his 9-18 with three threes opened things up. He managed to get a “F*** KD!” chant after he got in the face of PJ Tucker after a foul. With the game on the line late, he cooked Tucker possession after possession but missed a last second heave over three dudes and everyone else in the state of Wisconsin. He missed a lot of shots he usually cashes in and if he gets the same open looks this time, he’ll more than likely make up for it. The Bucks have kept the drop and doing that against Durant is a dangerous game. They got away with it last time, but can it work again? We’ll find out.

From the Vault

Across the way, the New York Mets (go Mets!) knocked old friend Matt Harvey around (again) a few days ago. It didn’t use to be like that

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