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Winner takes all: Nets and Bucks do battle in Game 7 at Barclays

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

One game to go. The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to close the series out in Milwaukee on Thursday night, but the Milwaukee Bucks held back multiple runs and wound up winning big to bring us to this point. Winner moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals. Loser faces some tough offseason questions. Let’s go.

Read about Game 6 from the Bucks perspective here.

Where to follow the game

TNT on TV. WFAN on radio. YES Network pre and post. Us on clubhouse afterwards. Tip off after 8:30.


Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Kyrie Irving has been making gains, but he’ll be out tonight. The hope is he’ll be back if the Nets win this game and advance to the next round.

Donte DiVincenzo is out.

The game

It feels like the fanbase is about one more missed shot away from turning completely on Joe Harris. His shot still isn’t here and he committed a couple of three point fouls that turned the game back in Milwaukee’s favor as Brooklyn was trying to mount comeback after comeback. The Nets still believe in him and are running plays to get him clean looks, but if he’s still cold, he’s more than likely gonna hit the bench in favor of Landry Shamet. There’s no margin for error anymore so if he’s gotta sit, he’s gotta sit.

The Bucks are a bigger team than the Nets, and that showed itself on the boards as Milwaukee won that battle by 12. The rotation is super small, but maybe utilizing someone like Nicolas Claxton can be an adjustment for the Nets? He only played three minutes in Game 6 and two in Game 5. Claxton (if he plays) and Blake Griffin will have to handle the inside. Griffin’s minutes have been in the late 20s to early 30s throughout the series and he’s been pretty solid all things considered. He can help initiate some offense and works as enough of a rim protector for the Nets on the inside.

You can’t afford to start slow and you can’t have a game where you commit more turnovers than hand out assists. The Nets were sloppy, took too long to get into their offense, didn’t generate enough movement, and didn’t have enough spunk in Game 6 to truly get them over the top. Every possession takes on extra importance so you have to be as focused and details oriented as humanly possible. One poor stretch and you’ll find yourself down 15 points quicker than you know it.

James Harden is getting more back in his rhythm. He made some shots on Thursday and hit a few threes for his troubles as well. He didn’t play 45 minutes this time as the Bucks' large lead late got him a little bit of a breather at the end. He's still not 100 percent but with everything at stake tonight, look for him to push through and give it another go tonight. After the game, here’s what Harden had to say following G6:

“It’s not even about rust. It’s about being able to move and I think day by day, I continue to get better. Game 5 was the first time I did any movement or anything like that since I got hurt. Tonight was no different. I’m out there to do whatever it takes to win and I got to be better on both ends of the ball, which I will be in Game 7.”

Keep grinding.

I’ve seen so many folks covering the series mention shooting regression for the Bucks, and for Jrue Holiday’s sake, tonight would be as good a time as any to find his shot. He’s only shot over 40 percent twice in this series and shot 1-10 from three last game. Holiday was supposed to be the engine of Milwaukee’s attack and hasn’t held up his end of the bargain on offense thus far. It’s been a disappointing series for him, but a good showing will wash away all those previous struggles.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had arguably his best shooting performance of the series. The 30 points and 17 rebounds were fantastic, but what stood out most was the fact that he went 6-10 from the free throw line and didn’t take a single three pointer. When he’s rolling downhill and living at the rim, he becomes practically impossible to handle. When he’s settling for threes, he’s essentially committing turnovers and making life a million times easier for his opponents. For all the emphasis on threes now, Giannis is probably the only player I wouldn’t want to take threes. Leave that to the other folks.

Antetokuonmpo heard some razzing from the Nets fans who made the trip to Milwaukee and enraged Harden with his all day long free throw routine, so look for Nets fans at Barclays to count him down every time he's at the line.

The Nets couldn’t wall Giannis off from the basket on Thursday and they’ll need to do that tonight. Griffin has given Giannis some trouble throughout the series and has often been Brooklyn's most effective defender against the former MVP. Blake has been an energizer at home and the team will need every bit of energy possible from the players on the court to the fans in the arena and at home.

Player to watch: Khris Middleton

Man picked a perfect time to have the best game of his career. As the Nets went on run after run, it was Middleton (whose nickname is apparently Khash Money, which... hell nah. Whoever came up with that needs to be banned from the nickname game!) who kept the Nets at bay. He's Milwaukee top perimeter scoring option and Mike Budenholzer will need another excellent game out of him if his team wants to move on. Middleton has played demonstrably better at home than at Barclays in this series, so the Nets are hoping the home crowd can rattle him one more time.

Steve Nash mentioned that the Nets will throw some different coverages at Middleton, which is well overdue. We mentioned Harris’ three point fouls up top, and he committed three of them against Middleton. As it happens, Middleton went 11-12 from the line. Yeah. Guessing Bruce Brown will get some turns with Middleton. Like Claxton, he’s seen his minutes decrease as the Nets have shrunken their rotation.

Kevin Durant will be the man to watch for the Nets. He had seven turnovers on Thursday, and a lot of that was due to him trying to force passes into really tight windows. Otherwise, his 32 points on 15-30 from the field led the Nets. Getting KD moving should be job one for the Nets attack tonight. Durant can score from anywhere, but the more he can get PJ Tucker off of him, the more likely he is to succeed. Sometimes the Nets offense gets stagnant waiting for Durant to bail them out, so if everyone is active, bouncy, and on the move, they’ll get easier looks since the defense is so (rightfully) concerned with Durant going off at a moment’s notice. He played 48 minutes in Game 5, and barring something unforeseen, he’ll be out here looking to pitch another complete game. This promises to be a game for the ages.

From the Vault

Last time the Nets played a Game 7, this happened

More reading: Brew Hoop