The Milwaukee Bucks. The Brooklyn Nets. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two time MVP versus NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. The Beard and Mr. Flat Earther versus KHA$H Money and Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Winner. This matchup feels more like Space Jam sequel with all the big names and goofy characters than an NBA second round playoff series.
Game 1: Milwaukee Bucks (46-26) @ Brooklyn Nets (48-24)
The Place: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY.
The Time: Saturday, June 5th, 6:30 PM CT
The Likely Starters
Bucks: Jrue Holiday – Pat Connaughton – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
Nets: Kyrie Irving – James Harden – Joe Harris – Kevin Durant – Blake Griffin
Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo– OUT, Thanasis Antetokounmpo- OUT
Nets: Alize Johnson– Day to Day, Jeff Green – OUT
What to know about the Nets
The Brooklyn Nets “big three” of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 426 of 617 points scored by the Nets during their first round series.
The Brooklyn Nets have been the best offensive team in the playoffs, ranking first in offensive rating (128), second in field goal percentage (49.6), and first in three-point percentage (42.6%) in the first round. With that said, they allowed the Celtics to score 115 points per game, despite the Celtics being short handed.
The Nets, however, went just 1-2 against the Bucks this season, but none of those games were when they were at full strength.
What to know about the Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks exercised some demons in their first round sweep of the Miami Heat, and now turn to the Nets to continue their title push.
The Bucks were the most balanced team in the playoffs on both ends of the court with +/- at +20.5. They scored 118.5 points on average against the Miami Heat while giving up just 98 points per game. The Bucks also rank first in offensive, defensive, and overall rebounds per game.
After a bad three point showing in Game 1 against the Heat (Miami was +15 on threes, where the Bucks had to claw out a OT victory), they then shot much better from the field the rest of the series in 3 consecutive blowout wins.
Keys to the Game
Guarding the three-point shot
Like the last series, the team that can make the most threes will likely win each game. However, the key for the Bucks is to not let the extra guys win the games by getting hot from outside, and at least make the Nets’ “big three” work for their shots.
Who will step up?
Last series, Byrn Forbes stepped up big-time for the Bucks. Forbes averaged 18.3 points per game on 16-for-30 from the three-point line in the series; just about anytime Miami tried to make a run, Forbes would seem to make a big shot.
Giannis versus The Free Throw Line
This season Giannis has been shooting 68.5% from the line on 9.5 attempts per game, but has been shooting 72.5% from the line since the All-Star break. He has to have a big series from the line as Brooklyn’s defense might be putting him on the line quite a bit.
Giannis versus the Three-Point Line
The other area Giannis has to take advantage of this series is on wide open threes. The Nets have given Giannis a league best 10.5 feet of space on threes this season. Giannis has shot 38% from three in three games. This includes a 4-for-8 night back in the team’s 117-114 win last month.
Matchups to Watch
Kevin Durant versus the Bucks Defense
The Bucks went out and got PJ Tucker during the regular season, and could prove to have been a crucial move for this series specifically. Tucker is versatile, tough, and annoying for opposing offensive players. He won’t be the only one to guard Kevin Durant, who plays the same position(s) as Tucker, as we’ll likely see a combination of Tucker, Bobby Portis, Khris Middleton, and Giannis on him. If they can force an extra miss here or there, that might just change the game enough to help the Bucks win.
Jrue Holiday versus Kyrie Irving
As the third stars on their respective teams, this series may just come down to which one of Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving are more impactful. Irving will likely score more points, but Jrue’s defense and ability to impact the game in many other areas could flip this series.
Prediction: Bucks in 6
I mean come on now, is there really any other prediction here?
I’m sticking with my original predictions of the winner of this series will win the NBA Finals. But, I don’t think the overwhelming favorites in the Nets will win this series, as the underdog Bucks will play enough defense to take down the Nets, likely on the back of a tremendous series by Giannis Antetokounmpo. This series likely goes the distance but I’m really taking Bucks in 6.
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