The Brooklyn Nets came into Game 2 looking to put a 3-0 stranglehold on their second-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately they failed. The Nets lost in a 83-86 thriller. In the absence of nine-time All-Star James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have led the charge for the Nets, averaging 32.0 and 24.4 points per game this post-season, respectively.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo has tried his best to keep his team afloat in the series, scoring 34 points in their first game and averaging 11 rebounds and 4 assists overall coming into Game 3. Still, his struggles from behind the arc and at the free-throw line have not met the standards for playoff success, as he averages 20% and 14% respectively.
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PJ Tucker & Kevin Durant Go Nose to Nose
Milwaukee Bucks forward PJ Tucker is known as a defensive tyrant and held Durant in check in the first half. In the third quarter, the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player began to light Tucker up. The Nets began to gain ground on the Bucks in the 3rd quarter after trailing by as many as 21 points in the first half. In the heat of a playoff battle, Durant and Tucker got involved in an on-court scrum and the two had to be separated. Fiserv Forum security also had to also restrain Tucker from going after Kyrie Irving after the Nets guard said something to him.
The competition between Durant and Tucker goes deep. The two forwards did battle during Durant’s Golden State Warrior days. The Warriors did battle with Tucker’s Houston Rockets twice and he was the primary defender on Durant during those series as well. Durant’s squad got the best of Tucker’s twice in 2017 and 2018 although Durant missed the final two games in 2018 after straining his calf in Game 5 of the series.
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Khris Middleton Speaks on His Early Struggles
Simply put, the Milwaukee Bucks supporting cast has not shown up in the series. All-Star shooting guard Khris Middleton was averaging just 15 points per game on 30% from the field, and 18% coming from the three-point line coming into Game 3. Middleton did however bounce back scoring 35 points to go along with 15 rebounds in the first game back in Milwaukee . The Bucks are right back in this series with the Nets after losing Game 2 by 39 points. Middleton knew it was possible even right after the blowout loss.
“It doesn’t matter in the Playoffs if we finish the game or not”, Middleton said of head coach Mike Budenholzer’s decision to remove the starting five from the game early in the final quarter of Game 2 per the New York Post. “They won two games. Just because you lose by 40 doesn’t mean the series is over or they get an extra win because of it. It’s just one game that they won. They’re up 2-0 right now and we gotta find a way to win our first one at home.”
Jrue Holiday Notes the Changes the Bucks Need To Make
Middleton also acknowledged his need to have a better shot selection, but teammate and All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday points to another need among the club that has to be modified for them to continue winning games.
“I feel like as a team we have to push the pace, find a good balance, and when we set up our offense, get a good shot and play with the pass”, Holiday said after the Game 2 blowout per the New York Post. “They had damn near 30 assists and we had . We have to play for each other a little more. …We saw them hitting shots, and we became too selfish.”
The Bucks have suffered many playoff disappointments over the past few seasons. If they want to avoid another early exit, Mike Budenholzer will have to continue to make the proper adjustments as they head into Game 4.