Nets’ Mikal Bridges Get Honest About Bucks Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets and Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Brooklyn Nets held a lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for the better part of three quarters.

And then “Giannis [Antetokounmpo] got it going,” in the words of Nets forward Mikal Bridges of a 66-42 second-half deficit and the eventual 118-104 loss, their third straight and seventh in 10 games since they last had either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving playing for them.

“It’s tough to gameplan against him,” Bridges said of the two-time MVP and 2021 NBA champion. “Everybody tries to gameplan him and the numbers he still put up, it’s tough. But I think we just got to be together as a team at all times. Because if he sees one lane, just a little opening, it’s tough to guard him. A guy like that, you got to be locked in at all times, all five guys.”

“We were not there…on our shifts in transition, not getting back as hard,” Bridges said via the YES Network’s YouTube channel. “And then Giannis got it going – go to the line, got the and-1s and dunking – and got them going. So, we just have to get back, have that mindset coming out [after halftime]. But, yeah, they dominated the second half…it started with us in that third [quarter].”

Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his game-high 33 points in a 39-point third quarter for Milwaukee that turned a 10-point Brooklyn lead into a six-point Bucks advantage.

Bridges poured in 31 points for the game to lead the Nets but it wasn’t enough.

The Bucks outrebounded the Nets 16-5 in the third quarter and 55-38 for the game.

“They was getting stops and they was pushing and getting out [in transition],” Bridges said before turning the focus back to Antetokounmpo. “We weren’t in shifts and Giannis was doing Giannis things – driving, creating, getting to the paint, kicking out, dunking it – doing everything. So, you just had to be better on the transition part.”

Milwaukee is not a strong transition team ranking 29th in points per possession (1.08 PPP) but Brooklyn has been middling at best on the defensive end all season ranking 14th (1.12 PPP) – the Bucks are also the top transition defense on a per-play basis.

What Milwaukee has is Antetokounmpo who leads the league in transition possessions per game at 8.2 generating a healthy 1.14 points per possession, or, 9.4 points per game.

Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-high 31.3 points with 12.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists.


The Nets Have Hit the Skids

The Nets’ defense has shown cracks recently allowing at least 118 points in four of their last five outings. Meanwhile, their offense has only surpassed that mark once – a 127-point outing in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on February 26.

Their lone victory during that stretch was a 116-105 win over the Miami Heat on February 15.

Asked about why the Nets’ offense suffered from the first to the second half – they scored 62 points in the first 24 minutes to 42 in the final two quarters – Bridges again cited the defense.

“Just not getting enough stops, that’s what it is,” Bridges said of the impetus behind Tuesday’s struggles. “We was getting stops and getting out in transition. That was the biggest thing…We weren’t getting stops so it kind of set their halfcourt defense.”

No Star Treatment for Giannis Antetokounmpo

One game after guard Spencer Dinwiddie lamented that Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young was the beneficiary of calls someone of Dinwiddie’s stature in the league would not get, Antetokounmpo was held to just six attempts. That is half of his season average and would fly in the face of Dinwiddie’s assertion of the Nets being doomed to the wrong end of that discussion.

Brooklyn was called for two fewer whistles but also had a 25-12 free-throw attempt edge.

Two Nets – Bridges and Cameron Johnson – finished with at least as many attempts at the line as Antetokounmpo who only had one free throw attempt in the final frame.

It is not a trend that should be expected to continue since, to Dinwiddie’s point, they will be on the losing end of the star-power battle on most nights. But it should at least give the Nets hope that they won’t always have to go against the officials in addition to the other team.

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