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Nets take on the Bucks in primetime matchup

Atlanta Hawks v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The team is back from the break, but the winning isn’t. The Brooklyn Nets resumed their season with a home tilt against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, but nothing worked well for them and they got blown out in front of the national TV audience again. Brooklyn is still in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but that’s not where they wanna be.

The opponent tonight will be the Milwaukee Bucks. Mike Budenholzer and friends are keeping on as they work towards the playoffs and a title defense. They’ve been off since last Thursday after losing a close one to the Philadelphia 76ers last Thursday night.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN on radio. Primetime affair so we’re getting started after 8:30.

Injuries

Ben Simmons is ramping up, so he’s not playing. Joe Harris is out. Kevin Durant is getting closer to returning, but not tonight. Think next week, Steve Nash said. Goran Dragic will make his team debut tonight. Kyrie Irving is available.

Brook Lopez is out with a back injury. Pat Connaughton is out with a right finger injury.

The game

Milwaukee took the first matchup on Opening Night and the second one in January. They wrap up the season series on March 31 in Brooklyn.

With reinforcements on the way and city laws likely changing, the Nets are right to feel some confidence as they enter the stretch run. At the same time, they’ve gotta start stacking wins up so they can give themselves some margin for error.

I was prepared to slander the Nets for all the ramp up they’ve been doing with players, but this excellent story by Katie Heindl caused me to reconsider.

We’ll be seeing some old friends tonight. The Nets wound up waiving Jevon Carter and DeAndre Bembry to make way for the new members of the team, and they signed with the Bucks as free agents. The Bucks also picked up Serge Ibaka from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline. Ibaka has appeared in three games and will be one of the centers they count on in the playoffs.

The other is a fan favorite and one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this season. Bobby Portis has stepped in for Brook Lopez and has had the best season of his career as he’s playing a career high in minutes and is 15 points and nine rebounds a game on a .482/.402/.755 split. He gives the Bucks interior presence and plenty of toughness as he battles opposing bigs on the boards.

Andre Drummond will have another opportunity to make something happen. The team has mentioned they want him to be in better condition as they will be counting on him a lot in the stretch run. The Bucks are sixth in pace, so there will be a lot of running tonight. Nic Claxton got back on the court Thursday and looked pretty decent in garbage time. Of course, the last time he played the Bucks, this happened:

Nets are going to need Clax to play like a beast if they want to reach their goals.

I LOVE bad jokes, so Giannis Antetokuonmpo’s dad jokes are right up my alley. When he’s not sharing his comedic stylings, he’s continued to wreck fools on the court. He’s one of the favorites to win the MVP and if he gets it, it would be his third win in the past four seasons. If he gets there, he’ll be joining his NBA 75 peers: LeBron James (four in five years from 2009-2013), Magic Johnson (1987-1990), Larry Bird (1983-1986), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (five in seven years from 1971-1977), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1969), and Bill Russell (four in five years from 1961-1965). Antetokuonmpo is a pantheon level player already and has so many more awesome years to go. It’s beautiful.

Bruce Brown has been excellent as of late, and he’ll have a big time matchup tonight. Khris Middleton is one of Milwaukee’s leading options when the game is close and is someone the Bucks can count on to get his own shot and make something good happen late.

Aside from the minutes total, the Nets have counted on Patty Mills to create offense, and that’s not his game. Now that Goran Dragic is here, Mills can cede some of the creation responsibilities to Dragic. The Nets needed another ballhandler to spread the workload around and Dragic will help immensely. With this being his first game since November, don’t look for him to play too many minutes.

Player to watch: Jrue Holiday

It’s a great time to be Holiday. He and his wife, Lauren Holiday, have continued to support Black owned businesses across various cities. On the court, he’s shooting a career high from the field (50.7 percent) and three point range (40.7 percent) as well. Holiday does a great job running the Bucks attack and is still a very good defender 13 seasons in to his career.

The last time Kyrie Irving was on this basketball court, he suffered a severe ankle injury that took him out of the Nets vs. Bucks series last spring. The 2020-2021 season was filled with what ifs, and the question of what would’ve happened if Irving was able to play every game is the one that might haunt the Nets the most.

After this wraps, we won’t see Irving again until March 6 against the Boston Celtics (also on ABC). NYC still has its COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place and Canada isn’t letting any unvaxxed people in, so Irving is assed out for the time being.

In the meantime, Irving will look to build on his best game of 2022. He was absolutely sensational against the Miami Heat as his 20 point fourth quarter had the Nets a possession away from coming all the way back and forcing overtime. The Nets need for Irving to put plenty of downhill pressure on the Bucks and get to the free throw line. His rim attempts haven’t been there so far, which is to be expected when you consider the team didn’t have as much space as he needs to. Now that they have one of the game’s greatest three point shooters on his side, things should open up for the All Star.

ICYMI...

While Ben Simmons remains out, the other piece in the blockbuster at the trade deadline, James Harden, returned to action Friday night and looked like last year’s version of The Beard. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his 76ers debut, a blowout win over Minnesota that left many Sixers fans pressing for Daryl Morey’s canonization.

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One foot over the line, Sweet Jesus, one foot over the line. (with apologies to Brewer and Shipley)...

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