The Milwaukee Bucks will be very shorthanded on Friday night when they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets led by MVP candidate Kevin Durant. The Nets come into this game as the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Bucks are a game back at #3. The Nets and Bucks have struggled in each of their last 10 games, with each team only going 6-4. However, that can be attributed to many injuries. This game will be a very hard game for this Milwaukee Bucks squad to play in due to the list of injuries and players in health and safety protocols. However, let’s break this game down team by team and get a better understanding of what each team is facing on Friday night.
On the Bucks side of things…
The injury report for the visiting Milwaukee Bucks for Friday’s game is utterly brutal. The Bucks will be without Brook Lopez and Donte DiVencenzo once again due to both of their injuries. In addition, Grayson Allen, George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and Jrue Holiday will all miss Friday’s game due to COVID-19. However, some good news for the Bucks is that reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has a good chance of playing.
So the Bucks will not only be without two of their best shooters in Allen and Connaughton, but will be without arguably their best defender in Jrue Holiday. This game will not only be a test of the Bucks team chemistry, but it will be an even bigger test for stand-in head coach Darvin Ham as Mike Budenholzer entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol earlier this week. Ham and the Bucks roster as a whole will be heavily tested due to Kevin Durant’s offensive play as of late. In short, he’s been phenomenal.
However, there’s one thing that might be going in the Bucks’ favor. The Nets have been terrible at home this season at 10-9, while the Bucks are 12-8 on the road this season.
On the Nets side of things…
The Nets come into this game with only one injury, Joe Harris (Ankle surgery), who is out for Friday’s game. Meanwhile, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving made his return earlier in the week and scored 22 points against the Indiana Pacers. However, he will miss all Nets home games due to New York’s vaccine mandates. Regardless, even without Irving, the Nets are still a very dangerous team due to the fact they have two all-time great scorers in Kevin Durant and James Harden. Durant is having another insanely good season averaging 30 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, and 5.7 assists per game. On the other hand, James Harden isn’t having his best year scoring at only 22.5 points per game but is averaging an astounding 9.8 assists per game and 8.8 rebounds per game.
You might think that with so much offensive firepower, the Nets probably don’t play much defense. However, this year that’s not the case as the Nets and Bucks are both tied in defensive team rating (107.7). You might also think with this much firepower that they are better than the opposing Bucks on offense, but once again that’s not the case as the Bucks slightly edge out the Nets in offensive rating.
The Nets come into this game with a huge advantage solely because of how many key players the Bucks are missing. However, even though they have the advantage does not mean they need to underestimate the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks roster.
Prediction: Bucks Starters
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup:
Guards: Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews
Forwards: Jordan Nwora and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Center: Bobby Portis, also Giannis in specific rotations
Prediction: Nets Starters
Brooklyn Nets predicted starting lineup:
Guards: Patty Mills and James Harden
Forwards: Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge
Center: Nicolas Claxton
I believe this game will be closer than many people think. I believe the combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton will still be a lot for the Nets to handle on both sides of the floor. However, I believe that due to the Nets being the more healthy team coming into this game that they will ultimately get the upper hand in this matchup.
PREDICTION: Nets 115, Bucks 109