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Game 6: Nets go for the knockout blow vs. Bucks

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I want you to put the word out there that we back up. The Brooklyn Nets were having their worst half of basketball at the worst possible time on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, they stayed the course, gave the outstanding Barclays Center crowd something to cheer for, and Kevin Durant put on a performance of the ages as they stormed back to beat the Bucks and take a 3-2 series lead. One more to go.

Read about Game 5 from the Bucks perspective here.

Where to follow the game

ESPN on TV. WFAN on radio. YES Network pre and post. Us on clubhouse. Only NBA game on the schedule tonight so we’re getting started after 8:30.

Injuries

Well, we know Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Kyrie Irving’s out too. But James Harden, who put in 46 minutes of work on Tuesday, is once again available.

Donte DiVincenzo is out.

The game

One quick bit of housekeeping. Our friends over at Brew Hoop have been providing awesome coverage and analysis of the Bucks and their work has helped us understand the series. I say that to say if you’re gonna head over to their site, be cool and don’t start any unnecessary shit. Same for when the Bucks fans join us here. We all trying to live and have fun watching these amazing athletes do their thing.

Speaking of fans, we might get ourselves a bonus edition of Wear Brooklyn At? An anonymous Nets season ticket holder, who attended Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee, came to Nets with an idea. This fan knows how passionate the Block is and offered to help pay for 20 of them to travel to Game 6. The Nets were so touched by the gesture that they offered to facilitate the booking of the hotels and tickets to make it happen. The 20 fans are traveling to Milwaukee together. They’re paying the airfare.

Let’s get this out of the way: Kevin Durant put on a show for the ages. More down further.

Moving on, James Harden is back. Sure he only went 1-10 from the field, but who gives a damn? Harden amazingly played 45:39 and did a good job essentially playing quarterback for the offense. Sure he wasn’t able to score, but he handed out eight assists and used his court vision and ball handling to give Brooklyn an extra ballhandler. The Bucks treated Harden like the former MVP he is and had Jrue Holiday shadowing him all game long and providing light pressure each time he brought the ball up. Having someone else that can get their own shot takes on even more importance and a hobbled Harden giving everything he has will help give the Nets more life.

Holiday still hasn’t put together a great game on offense this series. The Bucks fell in love with isolations again and that doomed their chances. A lot of that is on Mike Budenholzer, but when you’re the point guard that was brought in to take a good team over the top, you’ve gotta get things moving a lot more smoothly. There were some instances where he didn’t go at Harden on defense, and that can’t happen with the way Harden is compromised right now. You can’t afford to settle or fall into bad habits with so much on the line.

Jeff Green picked a perfect night to have one of the best games of his life. Uncle Jeff scored 27 points, hit 7-8 from downtown and was one of the main reasons the Nets were able to stay close enough in the first half as the Bucks ran out to their big lead. Steve Nash made a key adjustment by starting Green in the second half over Bruce Brown and it helped open the faucet of the Brooklyn offense. Like Harden, Green is just coming back from injury and is fighting through the pain.

What do you do when your team collapses like that? That loss on Tuesday has the potential to permanently shake up the franchise and the Bucks are going to need to put together their best stretch of ball if they want to win this series and save themselves from a lifetime of wondering what if. At the very least, a loss tonight is gonna cost Mike Budenholzer his job. That’s the cost of not living up to expectations.

Khris Middleton will have a lot on his plate. He’s the Bucks go-to scoring option and he has to be the one to make big shots for them. He did it in Game 3 and he’s gonna need a 30+ point night to force this series back to Brooklyn. He only went 8-22 in game 5 and that’s not going to cut it.

Although some fans have lost confidence in him, the team still has faith in Joe Harris. He’s still cold from the field, but he’s someone that gets big minutes and will keep getting opportunities. It’s only a matter of time before one of the league’s best shooters gets back on track and has one of those special games. If Harris is still cold, Landry Shamet can step in and provide good shooting from deep.

Player to watch: Giannis Antetokuonmpo

There’s a cold math to superstardom. When you’re the person that has to bring your team to the top of the mountain, everything falls on you. Is it always fair? No. Do we hold you to impossible standards? Yeah. But is that what comes with the package? Yup. It’s the cost of doing business and when your team has championship aspirations, you have to do your best to get them there.

By all accounts, Giannis Antetokuonmpo didn’t have a bad game on Tuesday. He scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on a highly efficient 14-22 from the field. He made over half of his free throws and hit two back breaking threes that shut the Barclays Center crowd up momentarily. Usually, that would be a gold star performance. However, the ending of the game was where the cold math of superstardom reared its ugly head. He split free throws on two occasions, turned it over on the Bucks’ chance to tie the game, and had everyone watching enraged when he did this against James Harden:

Yeah, that’s gonna get you a talking to. When the team melts down and you’re the guy in charge, it falls on you.

After the game, Giannis volunteered to take the Kevin Durant assignment on defense, and if he does, I wonder what that means for the Bucks lineups? PJ Tucker has gotten the assignment for much of the series, and if it’s going to someone else, does Mike Budenholzer change his starting lineup and try to get some more shooting with someone like Pat Connaughton in the lineup? The Nets targeted Connaughton repeatedly and he took a three on a 3-on-1 fast break that had me turning into an old man that yells about these young boys taking too many threes. However, whatever he does won’t matter if the two-time MVP doesn’t take his game up to an even higher level. Pressure’s building.

Strong enough to carry Biggie Smalls on his back, and the whole BK.

I can’t stop watching this

Kevin Durant had a game for the ages on Tuesday as his 49-17-10 in 48 minutes (yes, that is correct) carried the Nets to the win and have the Bucks on the brink of collapse. Along with Green, KD was the only Net that had a good first half to help them stay alive. Once he got turned up, he went on an all time run. He scored from everywhere on the court as he was able to brutalize the Bucks’ drop coverage on pick-and-rolls, handled every switch they threw at him, rose up over every defender thrown at him, and when they tried to hedge on p&r’s, he was able to find his teammates for good looks.

The Nets have two shots to win one game, so they may not need him to pitch another complete game tonight. But with the way he’s going, he may not need all 48 to get the Bucks outta here. Not to be outdone, Durant played marvelous defense and contested just about every Buck shot imaginable. Whatever you need, he got it.

From the Vault

CBS Sports HQ had an awesome stat that said the last two players to score 48+ points while playing all 48 minutes of a playoff game were KD and Kobe Bryant (We love and miss you, Kobe). Marv on the call with an all time great player having an all time game? Feels like the good ole days.

And not to be outdone, the last time an NBA player played every minute of a playoff game was LeBron James in 2018!

Legends only.

More reading: Brew Hoop.