clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks preview: Nets play their last home game of 2023

The Nets wrap up 2023 at Barclays against a familiar foe and an old friend.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

In-Season Tournament - Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Everyone can take a deep breath, for now. The Brooklyn Nets saved themselves from being the answer to a trivia and held on to beat the Detroit Pistons last night. That loss was the 27th in a row for Detroit, the longest losing streak in NBA history. I feel safe in saying Day’Ron Sharpe speaks for all his teammates here:

The opponent tonight is back in familiar territory. Despite the Christmas Day loss to the New York Knicks, the Milwaukee Bucks are still near the top of the Eastern Conference and promise to be a tough out come playoff time. That L snapped their seven game winning streak, but the team has started to figure a bunch of things out.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET

Injuries

No Ben Simmons. Lonnie Walker IV has been out for a while and is now under the weather. That we knew that overnight, but this morning, the Nets announced that they’ll be holding a lot of players out on the back end of the back-to-back and the beginning of a seven game in 10-day stretch. Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton are listed as out for “injury maintenance” while Spencer Dinwiddie will “rest.” Dorian Finney-Smith was initially listed as questionable with “left knee soreness,” but he too was declared out just before game time.

That leaves Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Royce O’Neale, Dennis Smith Jr., Trendon Watford, Harry Giles III and first rounders Dariq Whitehead and Noah Clowney who’ve been playing on the Island for the G League affiliate.

Giannis Antetokuonmpo is questionable with a right calf injury. Jae Crowder is out recovering from left adductor surgery.

The game

The Bucks won the first meeting in November.

Night two of a back-to-back is always difficult, and when you’re facing a title contender like this, you’re going to need to summon any left over energy you have in the tank to get the job done.

A lot of y’all fussed at Lucas for suggesting that the Nets might be better off switching the starting lineup. Turns out, Jacque Vaughn is thinking the same thing

Brooklyn still has plenty to figure out, and how they utilize various combinations will determine how they proceed with the rest of the season.

Can Cam Thomas do it again? Thomas lit the Bucks up to the tune of 45 points the first time he saw them and the Nets will need another terrific performance if they want to pull off the upset. Thomas was a DNP in the fourth quarter, so he should have a little bit of extra energy in reserve tonight. The Nets will need him to be extra aggressive in seeking out his shot when he’s on the court. Thomas’ minutes will continue to be a point of contention amongst Nets fans, and the coaching staff will need to figure out a way to make the most out of his game and see that his contributions lead to victories.

They’ll need someone that can go shot for shot with Damian Lillard. Dame Time has gotten more comfortable in Milwaukee and is top ten in three point attempts and 12th in makes per game. We know Lillard’s game by now, and we know that he has range from anywhere in the five boroughs and can heat up in a flash. For the Nets, having Dennis Smith Jr. back should help give them someone who might be able to bother Lillard enough to throw him off his game.

It probably won’t be a parade to the free throw line for the Nets like it has been the past few days. Detroit is worst in opponent free throw rate while the Bucks are fourth best at preventing free throws.

The Nets need more from Mikal Bridges. He got to the free throw line 15 times last night, but only made nine of them. Even he commented on it...

Brooklyn will need him to find his shot and help defend against Lillard. It’s a tall order, but one that is expected of him every night out. They can’t afford for him to go cold and not effect both sides of the ball. He played 39 minutes last night, and the thinking might be to dial him back a bit. He’s an iron man, but he still is human after all.

Dealing with Giannis Antetokuonmpo does not look like a fun time. Giannis is a battering ram out in transition and plays with a force and ferocity that is admirable and something you want your bigs to play with every night. The first time he saw the Nets, he roughed them up to the tune of 36/12/3/1/2 in 35 minutes.

It’s a total team effort to slow Antetokuonmpo down, and the Nets will try to give Dorian Finney Smith as much support as he needs to battle the Greek Freak.

Player to watch: Brook Lopez

It’s always great to see an old friend. Brook Lopez has continued to excel and be great at his role. After a rough, rough start on defense to begin the season, the Bucks have risen to middle of the pack on D, thanks in large part to having Brook return to playing more drop coverage. It’s worked for years and Lopez is second in the NBA in blocks at 2.9 per game. (Nic Claxton is fifth at 2.5 after last night.) It never hurts to go with what you know, and for the Bucks defense, having Lopez stationed at the rim and sending opponents back works best for them.

Nic Claxton and Day’ron Sharpe will need to keep the party going tonight. The duo put forth another outstanding combined effort, with Claxton going 11/11/2/3 and Sharpe going 11/11/3/2/4. Their play ensures the Nets have solid play at center for all 48 minutes, something the team hasn’t had consistently for quite some time. It’s a testament to their continued growth that they’ve been able to consistently grow and add things to their arsenal each game.

Meanwhile, Brook and Robin Lopez have joined State Farm’s cast of characters...

What, no mascots??

From the Vault

No rhyme or reason to it. Just feel like jamming to this one

More reading: Brew Hoop, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Behind the Buck Pass