The Milwaukee Bucks spent the higher a part of the previous yr attempting to make sure this season’s playoff run would go in a different way than those they made within the earlier two.
However after getting obliterated 125-86 by the James Harden-less Brooklyn Nets in Recreation 2 of their Jap Convention semifinal sequence Monday night time in New York, the Bucks head residence for Recreation 3 on Thursday realizing that they are now two losses away from a 3rd straight disastrous finish to their season.
But, regardless of the scenario, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo mentioned he isn’t feeling any in a different way than he did when Milwaukee was en path to a sweep of the Miami Warmth within the first spherical.
“It is easy,” Antetokounmpo mentioned, when requested how he may preserve his teammates from getting down after falling right into a 2-0 gap. “That is what I do.
“I do not get too excessive, I do not get too low. After the Miami sequence, we had been up 4-0, and coming to this sequence, I wasn’t excessive. Now that we’re down 2-0, I am not low. I am simply going to maintain doing what I am doing, preserve trusting my work, preserve trusting my teammates, preserve believing within the workforce, preserve believing within the habits we have constructed all yr, and hopefully in Recreation 3 we get a win.”
After Milwaukee’s Recreation 1 loss Saturday — a sport during which they missed 24 3-point makes an attempt and the Nets bought sudden manufacturing from Blake Griffin and Mike James after Harden exited 47 seconds in with hamstring tightness — the expectation by some was the Bucks would even the sequence with Harden watching from the sideline.
As an alternative, the Nets demolished the Bucks from the beginning, taking a 36-19 benefit after one quarter and main wire-to-wire within the largest win in franchise historical past — and the worst postseason loss in Mike Budenholzer’s three years as Milwaukee’s coach.
The Bucks regarded discombobulated from virtually the opening tip, settling for one jumper after one other as a substitute of attacking the paint — which, in flip, allowed the Nets to get right into a rhythm on the different finish.
It proved a deadly mixture for Milwaukee.
“There’s sure locations we wish to assault, sure guys we wish to assault with,” Budenholzer mentioned. “[But] we simply did not play nicely total. First quarter, the entire sport. … I believe we have got to play higher from begin to finish.”
Even with Harden not on the courtroom, the Bucks could not do something to cease Brooklyn’s remaining stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They mixed to outscore Milwaukee 22-19 within the first quarter, and Durant, particularly, bought no matter he needed all through the sport, ending with 32 factors on 12-for-18 taking pictures to go together with six assists in 33 minutes.
However they weren’t alone.
James once more impressed with 10 factors off the bench. Bruce Brown, who entered the beginning lineup rather than Harden, scored 13 factors to go together with six rebounds, 4 assists and no turnovers. Landry Shamet made three 3-pointers in 16 minutes off the bench.
“I favored our consideration to element,” Durant mentioned. “We did not get numerous performs good, however we made second and third efforts. They did not destroy us on offensive rebounds in order that confirmed we had been boxing out.
“For essentially the most half, we simply did what we had been imagined to do at residence. Now we now have to see if this sport can journey on the highway for us, and we gotta keep locked in.”
Getting into the sequence, Milwaukee’s largest benefit appeared to be inside, the place each Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez are considerably larger than the defenders the Nets have on them — particularly with Brooklyn taking part in small and utilizing both Griffin or Nicolas Claxton at middle.
However after the Bucks bought eight offensive rebounds within the first quarter of Recreation 1, the Nets have successfully walled off the paint since. Milwaukee had solely 11 offensive rebounds in Recreation 2 — and barely edged Brooklyn total in rebounding (44-42). Milwaukee had 20 fewer factors within the paint in Recreation 2 than it did in Recreation 1, whereas committing 16 turnovers that led to 23 Brooklyn factors.
Khris Middleton adopted up his clunker in Recreation 1 with one other in Recreation 2; he shot simply 7-for-20 from the sphere and missed all six pictures he took in that fateful first quarter. And after attending to the basket repeatedly in Recreation 1, Antetokounmpo had a reasonably pedestrian line — actually by his requirements — of 18 factors, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and three turnovers (he additionally went 2-for-7 from the foul line) in 33 minutes.
“I missed a pair I assumed I may’ve had, pressured a pair ones I should not have,” mentioned Middleton, who’s now 13-for-43 taking pictures on this sequence. “Simply should discover a higher rhythm, higher shot choice, I believe.”
Mix that with the Nets taking pictures 52% total — and an absurd 50% (21-of-42) from 3-point vary — whereas Milwaukee shot simply 8-for-27 (29.6 %) from deep, and it is simple to see how Brooklyn ran the Bucks out of Barclays Middle so completely.
“I believe for us, we noticed them hitting pictures and we simply grew to become just a little bit too egocentric, and we tried to do it ourselves,” Bucks guard Jrue Vacation mentioned. “We had some pictures within the paint, however they had been robust pictures, contested by two, typically three individuals.
“I really feel like once we get in there, we now have to attempt to spray it out and get these wide-open 3s. We did not shoot that nicely from 3, both, and that is most likely as a result of we did not have that many wide-open ones, they usually did. We simply have to have the ability to play off the move just a little bit higher.”
Milwaukee might want to do many issues a complete lot higher in Recreation 3. If not, this sequence will shortly be headed the identical manner Milwaukee’s first-round sequence in opposition to Miami did — solely this time, the Bucks will probably be on the receiving finish of a four-game sweep.
“It is a possibility,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “On the finish of the day, we now have to care for enterprise, and take it a sport at a time. I don’t wish to hear we bought to win two at residence. We bought to win one at residence. We have to win the primary sport. We have to get Recreation 3 and attempt to give every part we are able to to get that one, after which Recreation 4 attempt to do the identical factor. However we now have to deal with Recreation 3 proper now.”