The Brooklyn Nets came into Sunday’s game versus the Bucks looking to rebound from their loss two nights ago. In a matchup that saw them taking on two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Nets certainly had their hands full. Today’s game saw stars from both teams battle in what should be a preview of a potential playoff matchup. There was definitely a playoff vibe in today’s game, something that the Nets haven’t had much of this season. In the end, Giannis and the Bucks proved to be too much for the Nets, and the Nets fell 117-114 in a game that came down to the final possession.
The Nets came out playing with some urgency. Surprisingly, it was DeAndre Jordan who was leading the Nets to start the game, grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing his signature lobs off alley-oops. DJ was giving Giannis plenty of space to shoot jump shots, and Giannis made him pay with 6 straight points to start the game. Kevin Durant started to get going with about 5 minutes left in the first quarter, getting to his spots and showing that he is unguardable when healthy. At the end of quarter 1, the Nets were up 37-28 and had only allowed the Bucks big 3 of Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday to score.
The Nets started Quarter 2 with both KD and Kyrie on the bench, which proved to be a big mistake. The Nets’ offense completely stalled with no one being able to create shots and get to the basket. The Bucks cut the lead to 3 which forced head coach Steve Nash to put Durant back in. But Durant quickly scored 7 straight points causing the Bucks to use a timeout.
The Nets defense began to suffer from Giannis bullying DJ inside and out. Jrue Holiday continued to lock up Kyrie, causing Irving to be invisible for most of the game. And with the combination of sloppy play from the Nets and from a Durant turnover and not getting back on defense, the Bucks cut the Nets lead to 1 with just under 4 minutes in the half. The Bucks got hot with Bryn Forbes converting on back to back 3’s and finished off a 19 point turnaround for Milwaukee to lead 62-59 at the half.
The Nets’ defensive woes continued in the 2nd half, especially while trying to guard Giannis. Giannis began to take over in the 3rd quarter, continuing to attack Deandre Jordan. Giannis was given wide-open looks from 3 and was hitting them. He was effectively getting to the rim and hitting fadeaway midrange shots on DJ. With 6 minutes left in the 3rd, Giannis had scored all 16 of Milwaukee’s points. However, Durant was keeping Brooklyn in the game, and when Giannis was finally taken out, KD gave the Nets the lead with 1:25 left in the 3rd.
Blake Griffin was finally reinserted into the game at the start of the 4th quarter after watching Deandre Jordan eat up his minutes and quickly hit a 3 followed by a Landry Shamet 3. There was interestingly no KD or Kyrie in to start the quarter, something we haven’t seen much this season.
But the Nets still had no answer for Giannis even with Griffin now guarding him. Durant and Giannis took turns hitting shots and went back and forth for much of the quarter. But with Kyrie struggling to get his shot going, the Bucks took a 6 point lead with 2 minutes left. And when Irving finally showed up and hit a clutch 3 with the shot clock expiring, the next possession he took a low percentage shot 5 seconds into the shot clock and missed. The Nets had chances to tie the game late, but Durant missed threes on back-to-back plays to end the game.
Durant had one of his best games of the season, scoring 42 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The same cannot be said for Kyrie Irving, as he has held in check the entire game by Jrue Holiday. Giannis also proved to be a legitimate threat to the Nets, scoring 49 points. If Giannis plays like this in the playoffs, the Nets could be in some serious trouble if they don’t figure out a way to contain him.
In addition, Landry Shamet continued his amazing play from April, scoring 17 points and going 4-7 from 3. It’s an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on, as Shamet has been slowly becoming more effective than Joe Harris. Shamet has been scoring more and has the ability to create his own shot, unlike Harris. We will have to see if Nash decides a lineup change is going to be needed.
Overall, this was a great game. The Nets won’t have to wait long for revenge, as they play the Bucks again on Tuesday at 7:30.