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BLOWOUT: Nets hit on all cylinders, destroy Bucks, 125-86; Kevin Durant goes for 32

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

It was a Brooklyn blowout ... and a candidate for the best game in the history of the franchise. The Nets dominated from wire-to-wire. showing no mercy as they went up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Without James Harden — who was sitting along the baseline near the Nets bench — Brooklyn delivered a blowout win in front of a pandemic sellout crowd of 15,776, defeating Milwaukee, 125-86. At one point in the fourth, the Nets were up by 49 with the faithful alternately chanting, “Fifty, fifty!” and “Brook-lyn.”

“Whether you win by two or you win by 25, it’s just one game,” Steve Nash said. “We held homecourt. We performed well in the two games and for our group, we want to keep growing and getting better. We’re still very new with one another and there’s a lot of things we can continue to refine and improve. We’ll go and try to keep improving in Milwaukee.”

It was a historic performance for Kevin Durant — who picked up his fourth 30+ point game of the postseason with 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. Durant also tallied six assists and four rebounds in the 33 minutes of play. The Nets superstar only trails Vince Carter — five in the 2006 postseason — for the most 30+ point games in a single postseason run in Nets history.

Kyrie Irving followed with a solid performance of 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from three to go with six assists and five rebounds in 34 minutes of play. While Irving delivered another box office performance, Bruce Brown — who started in replace of Harden — met expectations.

Brown had an efficient night filled with hustle plays and extra effort, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes. Brown shot 6-of-10 from the floor and went 1-of-2 from three in the dominant win.

Mike James — who is thriving in his increased role — had another productive outing off the bench with 10 points, three assists, and three rebounds in 24 minutes of play.

But once again, it was Blake Griffin who gave the Nets early impetus with two slams, one a throwback putback that was the first of many explosive moments in a long night of them. Griffin finished with seven points and eight rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

“He always plays with that good energy and fire to him,” said Bruce Brown about Blake. “As we know, they did count him out earlier this year. He’s got something to prove. He’s playing really well and he’s going to continue that.”

The Nets shot 52.1 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and 86 percent from the line as a team in the Game 2 win while setting a new franchise playoff record with 21 three-pointers. Brooklyn had five players finish in double-figures and capitalized off Milwaukee’s 16 turnovers, translating to 23 points. The Nets maintained their 50/40/90 shooting splits for the post-season.

“We’re very special individually, but the selflessness is really what creates the difference,” said Kyrie Irving. “Defensively, we’ll win us games down the stretch. But offensively, playing the right way and trusting one another... This team, we’ve grown so much and we’ll continue to do so.”

For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 from deep and another miserable night at the line, hitting only 2-of-7 from the line.

“We just competed. You talk about schemes and all that stuff but really our fight and level of competition. Guys being locked in, being aware of the game plan, and being able to take of details has been outstanding and it’s got to continue,” said Nash on the Nets defense against Antetokounmp. “They are going to raise their level and we got to raise ours as well.”

Khris Middleton with 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting overall and 3-of-8 from three but didn’t score his first point until late in the second quarter. The Bucks finished the loss shooting 44 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from deep and had five players in double-figures. In the end, holding Milwaukee to 86 points is a big achievement of defensive play.

“Really just make his shots tough. Just be physical with him, give him nothing easy, and really press him,” Brown said on defending Middleton in Game 2.

“The guys have worked hard at it to find our best level defensively. What works for us and how we are able to refine and improve it. Tonight was exceptional and our defense has been pretty solid throughout the playoffs, so it’s something to be proud of but we got to feel like underdogs down there and play with that heart.”

The Nets opened Game 2 hitting four of their first eight shots while the Bucks went 3-of-9 from the field and 1-of-3 from three. It didn’t take long for the Barclays Center crowd to get rocking with an exciting sequence. First, Griffin emphatically slammed home a two-handed putback slam followed by a midrange and one jumper by Durant to put Brooklyn up 13-7 with 7:24 remaining in the first.

“Great start. Guys were prepared, hungry, and not only played well but battled, fought, and scrapped. [They] did the little things that it takes to win,” said Nash on the strong first-quarter start.

The offense was clicking for Brooklyn following the two huge momentum plays. While Durant (13 points) and Irving (nine points) were rolling — scoring 22 of the Nets’ 36 first-quarter points to lift Brooklyn to an extended 23-9 run to give the home team a commanding 36-19 lead after one — third biggest lead of the season after the first.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee — who lost Tucker for the first early with two early fouls — were dependent on Forbes — who scored five of the Bucks’ 19 first-quarter points while the team shot 34.8 percent from the field and 30 percent from three in the quarter. Middleton struggled in the first going scoreless and shooting 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-2 from three to go with two turnovers.

Brooklyn opened the second with the second unit and went +3 when Durant and Irving were off the floor. The duo checked back in at the 8:51 mark nursing a 20-point lead and the Nets kept their foot on the gas. While Brooklyn successfully kept Antetokounmpo out of the paint, the damage on the offensive end followed with a 23-foot three by Brown followed by a Griffin baseline poster slam over the Greek Freak, resulting in the Bucks to call timeout with 6:24 remaining in the second down 19.

Although Middleton poured in 10 points after missing his first seven shots and Holiday contributed 10 as well, Brooklyn hit the break with a dominant 65-41 lead. While the Nets offense was flowing till the halftime buzzer, shooting 57.8 percent (26-of-45) from the field and 52.9 percent from deep (9-of-17), their defense was the key — keeping Antetokounmpo beyond the perimeter and limiting him to only six points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field in 19 minutes — and scoring 14 points off the Bucks’ nine turnovers.

Durant led the offensive onslaught with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting overall and 3-of-4 from three to go with three rebounds and two assists followed by Brown — who scored 11 points in 14 minutes starting in place of Harden.

It was Brooklyn’s way in the third. The Nets carried over their offensive play from the second quarter while converting defense into offense. While Brooklyn held a double-digit lead — behind Durant’s 11-point third and key defensive stops — throughout the entirety of the third. Brooklyn went on to close the third quarter on a 10-1 run in the final two minutes to head to the fourth with a 30-point lead (95-65) — matching the biggest lead through three quarters in franchise postseason history.

Both teams emptied their bench at the eight-minute mark of the fourth to finish out the contest. But that wasn’t the end of Nets dominance as the Nets went up by 49 after Reggie Perry hit a three with 5:32 left. It was that kind of night.

Film Room

We were due a Bruce Brown game.

We’ve covered this one before; there isn’t a player more resilient to change on this roster than Bruce Brown. Spacing and stature be damned; the 24-year-old is going to make an impact.

The Bucks’ key adjustment was moving Brook Lopez from Blake Griffin — who dropped 18 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1 — to Bruce Brown in Game 2. Lopez, who primarily operates in a “drop” coverage and hangs back in the paint to mask his sluggishness, would guard Bruce Brown without getting totally burned by Brown’s outside shooting (or lack thereof). Ideally.

A potentially great choice!... had Bruce not had a full season’s worth of seasoning of killing drop bigs who dare “hide” defensively while guarding him.

“I always say I love when they put the five on me because they’re always in a drop. If I get a good hit on KD, Kyrie, when James comes back, or Joe, their man, usually it opens up a floater for me or they can get right to they midrange shot,” explained Brown. “Really, I just love when the five is on me, for sure.”

An example.

In the early seconds of this clip, notice two things. A) Brook Lopez’s positioning, deep in the paint in a drop, and B) the quality of Bruce Brown’s screen.

What Bruce’s solid screen does is that it forces PJ Tucker behind the play while Brook Lopez stays put in the paint to take away any at-rim shots, and THIS forces Jrue Holiday to help off of Kyrie Irving into the middle of the floor to take away Durant’s midrange shot. Easy pass from KD to Kyrie, buckets.

“Me and Kai talked about it once we got Bruce in, playing against him the last two years, I mean, nobody really knew him in Detroit,” said Kevin Durant, “but what when you play against him and you got him in the scouting report, he kind of disrupted our flow when I was in Golden State a bit one game. And I was like, ‘Yo, who is this kid?’ He’s a second-round pick, I didn’t hear of him, and I didn’t watch him in college.”

On this play, Brown operates as the roll man in a much higher pick-and-roll to drag Lopez up to the three-point line. When Durant draws two defenders, Brown breaks away into the middle of the floor, Giannis rotates over to take away his floater, and Brown makes the right play with the dump-off for the Blake dunk.

That’s how a poster is made.

Milestone Watch

So many points, so many milestones...

  • The 39-point win is the Nets’ most lopsided in franchise playoff history and their largest margin of victory in any game this season. The Nets lead at the end of the first and third quarters was the best in franchise post-season history while the halftime lead was the second biggest.
  • The Nets set a new franchise playoff record with 21 3-pointers made tonight.
  • Kevin Durant (30 points) has recorded his fourth 30-point game of the 2021 playoffs. That’s already the second-most 30-point games registered by a Net in a single playoff run, trailing Vince Carter’s five in the 2006 postseason. KD shooting splits for the post-season: 50/55/91.
  • Nets lead the post-season with fewest points off turnovers at 18 per game.
  • This was the Bucks’ first wire-to-wire loss of the season. It was also their second biggest loss in playoff history.

Not a milestone but a good number nonetheless: Kevin Durant played 33 minutes, down from 40 in Game 1 while Kyrie Irving played 34, down from 45.

Steve Nash finishes sixth in Coach of the Year voting

Prior to Monday’s Game 2, the NBA released the voting results for Coach of the Year. While Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks was awarded the honor, Steve Nash — a rookie head coach — finished sixth in voting with seven total points, receiving one second-place vote and four third-place votes.

2020-21 Voting Results
(Via NBA Communications)

Not bad for a rookie, but one Nets player disagreed...

Two years on

It was two years ago Tuesday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Raptors that Kevin Durant blew out his Achilles tendon, which some (foolishly) thought might end his career.

So after tonight’s game, Jared Greenberg of TNT reminded him of the upcoming anniversary and asked, “Tomorrow will mark two years since you initially injured your calf. I know you worked your butt off but did you ever think you’d be this good?

Durant was having none of it. “Is that a real question? (I mean) what you want me to say to that? Of course I did.”

Uh, yeah.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will return to action on Thursday, June 10 when the team travels to Milwaukee for Game 3. The tip time has yet to be released and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

For a different perspective, check out Brew Hoop - our sister site that covers the Bucks.